What is it about music?

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, November 24, 2019

By: Carol Evans

What is it about music? How is it that we can make these amazing sounds that our ears and brains work in tandem both to create and to decipher, that can evoke joy, sadness, exuberance or anxiety, and sometimes impel us to move and dance? It’s a wonder to me.

Music has always had the power to move me. That could be literal and physical, as when frenetic Hungarian gypsy music propelled me at age 3 into energetic dancing, helpless to stop until I fell, exhausted and exhilarated! Even now, there are times when standing still is simply not an option. But above all, music, especially sacred choral music, has the power to move me emotionally and spiritually.

Music was heard regularly in our house growing up—both live and recorded, most of it classical. I remember my dad taking guitar lessons with Laura Weber on public television and driving an hour each way to Nashville for flute lessons. While we (and the neighbors on open-window spring and summer mornings!) tolerated endless scales, we loved the results when he and my piano teacher got together at our house for piano-flute duets.

Both parents enjoyed classical music, but my dad especially loved it and would often enthuse over some particularly inspiring or moving passage. He would point out identifying characteristics of a composer’s music and it became a regular dinnertime game with my three sisters to see who could guess the composer being played that night.

My dad was a faithful lifelong volunteer choir member in the Episcopal church where I grew up, and in high school and college I often joined him. That special connection with him undoubtedly accounts for the fact that sacred choral music has the power to move me perhaps more than any other form.

As the newest volunteer choir member I feel very fortunate to get to sing at St. Mary’s with musicians of such caliber under such talented, inspired, fun and caring direction. I have learned a great deal and feel that I get far more from singing with our choir than I could ever possibly contribute.

A prayer sung is for me the highest form of worship. Singing familiar text often makes me see it afresh, and the same verse can take on new meaning with each new musical setting, depending on my circumstances at the moment.

According to Episcopal Church guidelines, choir music is meant not for the entertainment of the congregation but as an offering to God. It certainly often feels that way to me. An now and then, especially when I am paying attention, I feel that I am given back a gazillion-fold. What I hope is that the choir’s musical offering enhances each hearer’s experience of worship and in some small way serves to deepen her or his personal connection to God.