Monday, April 04, 2016

Reflection: Rend Collective Concert, Joy, And Music

Last Thursday, Jamie and I took an impromptu trip to Chestnut Ridge Church in Morgantown, West Virginia to see a band that our good friend HallĂ© had told us about a few years back, Rend Collective. Little did we realize when HallĂ© told us about this Irish folk band that their music was already a regular part of our weekly worship gatherings among our local faith community. 
As we arrived, I found myself thinking about how music has changed over the last hundred years, and even over the last ten years. Thanks to apps like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music we can stream a wide array of music on our computers and mobile devices wherever we go. I remember when I acquired my first Mac, I was so impressed that I could take all of my compact discs and place them on my computer. I remember as a small child being tremendously excited about listening to eight-tracks with my parents at home, and by the time I was in junior high, I was able to listen to cassettes with my Walkman as I walked around the neighborhood, or even around the house. Mine was one with the ability to record, play radio music, and cassettes, and I can remember having a ton of fun listening to tunes.
But this wasn't always the way music was available. It's kind of hard to fathom because nowadays our favorite artists' music is readily accessible. But there was once a time when music could only be experienced live--our only way to experience music was to go to a concert, or to make it ourselves. As I listened to the band, they invited us to join in singing, clapping, snapping fingers and dancing. They were inviting us to experience the joy of music. Music is quite the gift!
As much as I enjoy listening to music of various genres, I tend to believe that music is best rendered as something we experience. I believe it was John Cage who said that once we record it, it ceases to be music--it is not able to be experienced in the same way as when it is live. It is the energy of a past moment that may be powerful as a memory, but it is a far different experience than making or creating music in the moment. 

As we enjoyed the evening with the band's performance, and as the members of the band switched rapidly among instruments that even included garbage cans, they were encouraging us to enter into the joy of song, singing praises to the Creator of the universe, and not allowing our cynic or our inner critic to rob us of laughter and joy. At one point in one of their songs, the lights went out and they were wearing panda heads. Later that evening they talked about how the Bible references both fruit of the Spirit and gifts of the Spirit and that seriousness does not make an appearance in either list. Making music invites us into the realm of joy, and they felt that panda heads while performing were a good reminder to the people who joined them at the concert to not fill their lives with seriousness. 

Growing up, even though I don't remember either of my parents playing an instrument, they encouraged us to sing, to play music, and to be joyful. It was never a command from them, it was more of a simple way of life for all of us. At some point in time before I was born, my dad and one of my uncles used to drive a garbage truck. They would regularly find treasures along the side of the road that people were ridding themselves of. One of those treasures was an electric organ. I have many vivid memories of plugging that organ in, and listening to a fan begin to spin; the keys on the organ forced the air through to create notes of music. Dad had also acquired a couple of song books for this organ that were numerically coded, so I could follow the numbers to play songs. This was before the advent of synthesizers and keyboards in the 80s. I don't believe anyone in our family ever became a piano player, but I can remember playing Christmas carols and other songs as Dad made home-made pizzas or Mom was making some meal for us all to enjoy. 
Even on my tribal grounds, we never really listened to recorded music. We made music. Our tribal drum was like a heart beat. Our ancient songs connected us with past generations, and brought forth traditions to a new generation. Every gathering had a time for music and a time for folks to circle around a fire as drumming and singing would begin and carry on often late into the evenings. Even during times of sadness, singing, drumming, and dancing, listening and creating music that echoed through the hills had (and still has) a power to move us toward deep joy, peace, and hope. 
Lots of memories came to my mind thanks to the experience of a concert with Rend Collective for sure. Music is such a huge gift, and, while Jamie and I definitely enjoy listening to music as we go through our days, there's nothing quite like experiencing it live with others, or creating music of our own. Even as I write this, I feel a tug toward spending a little more time during my daily and weekly rhythm singing, dancing, and playing guitar. Nothing like a little live tune amid the rhythm of life!
As we go about our days, our weeks, and our years, may we each take time to make music and invite others to join us in joy-filled songs. May we create, build, and share in the gift the King of the universe has given us in living amid music! 

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