My community has a Festival of the Arts every April
and I have just attended two days of vocal classes.
If you have ever been to an adjudicated Festival you will know
that after each selection
there is a significant pause
while the Adjudicator writes her/his adjudication.
Knowing this, I took some articles to read.
They were on the topic of
since I’m preparing for a morning of teaching at
My readings and the Adjudicator’s comments
came together in a way that was
The Adjudicator spoke about
mind – body – spirit
I had not expected the Adjudicator to speak of such things.
One of my transformation articles wrote about
I had not expected my research to speak of singing.
The Adjudicator spoke to some of the participants
about their eye contact
saying something like
(not a direct quote since I wasn’t taking notes)
Look at us while you sing. I want to see your Soul.
Indeed, I have read the Wisdom that says that
eyes are a doorway into Soul.
I have also read that
Soul loves music.
At one point the adjudicator told us that she had been taught that
‘Music resonates the Soul’.
affect – provoke – awaken – arouse – inspire
After reading some articles on the psychology and spirituality of
I read this story told by
(I have both condensed and quoted)
who described the contemplative hour
she had been asked to offer for
thirty-five female inmates at a jail in her community.
Paula had invited
a pianist and two vocalists to accompany her.
These were accomplished musicians
and they had carefully selected a variety of music
from pop to Broadway tunes.
Many selections held a theme of hope and healing
which was what Paula wanted to focus on.
She had one misgiving.
They had also chosen a piece from a French opera.
(The Flower Duet in Lakmé by Léo Delibes)
Paula worried that this piece would not have an appeal
and that, because it would be sung in French
the meaning would be lost to these women.
She thought she should ask these musicians to change this selection
but she didn’t.
Here’s what happened:
“As the inmates arrived and found seats,
there was a lot of restless energy in the room…
heads turned each time someone new came in,
and there were multiple greetings and a steady hum of whispered conversations.
In addition to that background noise,
there was the ongoing interruption of loudspeaker announcements,
plus the voices of those walking down the corridor past our door.
Guards also walked back and forth inside the room, monitoring the rows.
At some point, I gave up hope that we would be able to create a quiet atmosphere.
Laura and Sarajane welcomed everyone
and began to sing the first notes of “Flower Duet”.
In the same way that Rilke writes
about the darkness being able to pull in everything
“shapes and fires, animals and myself”
in exactly that way, the sheer beauty of the singers’ voices
and the magnificence of the opera changed the room.
It became completely still and we were somehow
The music pulled us into the brevity of a lifetime;
the mistakes we make; our longings for things to be different, to be better;
the despair of being without hope; and the pure and the holy.
When I turned around to look,
I saw that many inmates were overcome by emotion.
Something sublime was moving in that room,
a sound that directly entered our hearts.
I forgot about time and our schedule and
anything else that had seemed important just minutes before.
The jail was taken over by the ascending beauty of the music.
A powerful force moved in that plain and simple classroom,
pressing its way through the life circumstances represented by the women
seated in the rows of metal chairs.
It was as if the enveloping sound was saying to a hidden place in each of us:
something great is alive in you, and
something more than this surface reality is intended for your life.
Beyond your circumstances lies a different destiny.”
A moment of transformation.
I have witnessed the transformative power and mystery of music myself.
In my thirty-plus years of offering Sunday Church at a Care Home
I have seen sleeping heads and unresponsive eyes
raise and focus
when a hymn from earlier life was
My mother had a brain trauma which resulted in severe memory loss, yet
when I took her to musical events where her beloved tunes were sung
she became ‘Mom’ again
singing and smiling.
I have had many experiences of sensing
within the sanctuary of congregational worship
to the Souls who had gathered.
*** ***** *
Sometimes, in community-life
we take things like
as skill development
for those who have gifts.
The nurturing of music in
an individual and in a community
does so much more.
It resonates with
our Souls to sing.
*** * *****
Listen to a piece of music that resonates with your Soul.
Sit … savour … feel the deepness within you.