Summer music festivals are huge. Here in Renfrew we are about to host Blues Fest and thousands of people are expected. But I confess that the whole music festival scene is foreign to me. I have never been to such an event. My introverted self shudders at the thought. I understand that I am woefully out of step with pop culture on this and I even think that I am missing out on something. When I hear people talk about music festivals they do so with a passion I wish people felt when talking about church. In fact the music festivals border on worship. The lyrics of songs are scripture for some. The unity experienced in the crowds is akin to the unity of the spirit we proclaim. The melodies lift some to transcendence.
Personally I listen to three internet music radio stations: a Dutch station that broadcasts only opera, a Swiss classical music channel, and finally a Swiss Jazz station. Each gives me great pleasure and I use each at particular moments of the day or during specific activities. I take particular pleasure in knowing these broadcasts are put together on another continent, that people around the world are listening. This music can also offer transcendence, I can be lifted out of a particular mood or context. But that said it is not like the experience of the festivals going on across the country.
At my church we moved into summer with a simple survey of the congregation’s favourite hymns. There were a few surprises but generally the classics endure. “How Great Thou Art” and “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” continue to do well. But along with naming favourite hymns people spoke of how deeply the hymnody of the church is buried within us. In nursing homes people who have lost much memory can still sing or hum an old hymn. There is something comforting about that and it feels like a moment of connection between the resident and the visitor when they find such a shared expression of faith.
We are a musical people; even atonal, rhythmically challenged souls like myself. It is why we have images of God that include God as the Singer and we as the song. So enjoy your music this summer be it at a festival, a concert, or in your home. Enjoy it and it be transcendent, worshipful. May it connect you to others and even to God.