This Past week in Maine, Cameron and I visited The Front Porch in Ogunquit. It is one of the foremost piano bars on the east coast and one where I played for many seasons. It was in piano bars that I began my career as a professional musician many years ago at age 14. As I sat at the other side of the piano bar singing with the other patrons it got me thinking. There is something about group singing that generates a feeling of wellbeing that is all but indescribable.
Plain and simple, I don’t believe that we sing enough. And even more importantly we don’t sing enough in groups. Believe it or not, it is exactly this experience enhances our spiritual connectedness– one with another. Music today for the most part, has become a passive activity. Turning on the radio offers us a myriad of musical choices for our listening pleasure. Be is oldies, techno, rap, country western, rock, classic rock, new age, or classical, most music we hear comes to us at by switching a dial. We sit and listen or more than likely it serves as a backdrop to some other activity like cleaning the house, driving the car, or working on the computer.
That we utilize music in many forms is not at issue here. Many of us choose to play certain music to enhance our prayer or meditation – which it most certainly does. But how many of us sing while we pray? How often do we sing together at gatherings other than worship? I remember family trips in the car often included a family songfest. Singing folk songs while some one played guitar was also always a must at parties. I can even remember singing songs on the school bus.
I think singing in Church is about the only place where group singing is an expected activity other than perhaps singing the National Anthem at a sports event. The point is not weather the group that is singing sounds good, or even in tune– it is weather or not a unified sound is made! At the core of every individual spirit lies a sacred sound. It is totally unique and longs to be unified with others in the same way our individuals seek community. O that we would open our mouths and let our sound out so that it might be heard!
My suggestion is the next time you are in the car with some one you feel comfortable with, try turning off the radio or CD player (they are merely crutches), and try singing alone together. A simple song will do. You may feel uncomfortable at first, but give it time. See if it enhances your interpersonal connectedness. The same goes if you are gathering in a small group, sing or chant and see how it affects the group dynamic.
I love the biblical passage after the last supper that states, “and when they had sung a hymn they went to the Mount of Olives” (Matt 26:30) Yes, group singing was part of Jesus’ experience too. Before we had drums, or any other instruments for that matter – we had our voices to radiate the sounds that reflect the sacred that dwells in us all.
Think about it…