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Further Musical Musings!

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Further Musical Musings!

We have many within our parish community with a love of music. Here our ‘resident’ organist offers some of his musings on the topic which appeared in our last Christmas edition of the parish magazine.

MUSICAL MUSINGS

 

‘If music be the food of faith: play on,’ to misquote the bard. Music and worship seem to have gone together from the beginning. King David and others were writing psalms, presumably for liturgical use, when statues (graven images) and other art forms were somewhat frowned upon. Not that I have anything against other art forms; as God created all our senses it seems only reasonable that we should use all of them to try
to get closer to him; but with music and faith there seems always to have been a special relationship.

The psalms are not the only evidence that music was important. If we move into the New Testament we find St Paul encouraging the Ephesians and Colossians to sing songs of praise to God. And even closer to the heart of our faith St Matthew records that there were hymns after Communion after that first Eucharist from
which all others are derived.

What is it about music that fosters this close relationship? I think that the most important point is that it can appeal to all irrespective of age or education. That is because it does not speak primarily to the intellectual part of the brain but to a deeper older part of the brain, that which we have traditionally called ‘the heart’. Jesus said ‘I thank you Father for revealing the mysteries of the kingdom to mere children.’
Mere children can also appreciate music. I have it on good authority that an unborn child moved in time to the music when his mother was listening to a Brahms symphony at a concert. I have it on equally good authority that, at the other end of life, a retired music teacher suffering from dementia, so advanced
that he could not recognise family members, was still able to play the organ fluently if he were led to the instrument and helped on to the stool. Studies have shown that the behaviour of young children improves if they listen to the music of Mozart regularly. Singing is used therapeutically to preserve failing
intellectual activity and social interaction related to advancing age. We who are in between these two extremes do well to appreciate that, just as there is clear evidence of a strong musical sense in these people, there is strong spiritual life also.

Of course I am not arguing that we should not use what powers we have been given to appreciate music or to explore our faith. We are told we should love the Lord our God with all our mind. It is possible to appreciate music at many different levels. It is possible to enjoy, for example, a Bach fugue as an evocative succession of sounds with very little understanding of the rules which the composer used to put them together, but
deeper study will lead to even greater pleasure and wonder at how the music has been conceived. Similarly with our faith: we can take reassurance from the fact that it is ‘revealed to mere children’ but that should not encourage intellectual laziness because any effort to deepen our understanding is likely to be well rewarded.

Music needs the anonymous composer of the simple folksong as much as Bach and Beethoven; our church needs the likes of St Bernadette as much as the likes of Blessed John Henry Newman; we all need them and all those in between.

One more parallel strikes me. Music needs to be performed. No-one goes to a concert to look at musicians admiring the dots on the page, no matter how beautiful the music they represent; unless someone gets up and bangs, blows or strokes something there is no music. The pleasure lies in the performing and the hearing, and even an imperfect performance is better than silence. Similarly no-one is likely to take much notice of us just listening to the teaching of Jesus; there is no faith unless we play it out.

Let us, with God’s help, strive to bring more harmony, in every sense, to our little bit of the world as we
approach the holy season of Christmas.

 

Mervyn Amesbury                                         

 

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