Friday, September 24, 2010

considering music and spirituality

I'll be leading a class on music and spirituality starting next month, so that's been getting me thinking about what it actually means.

I guess the questions to begin asking are:

How does music help define our spirituality?
How is music impacted by spirituality?
How can we use music to develop spirituality in congregations?
And most importantly, in the context of music, what is spirituality?

I recently heard a story from a Story Corps producer about an experience she had while doing an interview. And while she didn't speak specifically of this as something spiritual, it was hard not to feel it when she told the story.

One of her interviews brought her into contact with a 30 year old woman and her parents.  This woman was in hospice care suffering from terminal cancer and spent much of the 40 minute interview saying goodbye to her parents.  Toward the end of the interview, the producer said to the women that they had two minutes left in which she could record her personality for posterity.   To the producer's shock, the woman didn't tell a story or say anymore farewells.  Instead, she started singing "Summertime" from George Gershwin's opera "Porgy and Bess."

The producer remarked that for the first 38 minutes, she sounded weak and frail, like a dying person, but for those last two minutes, her voice was strong and she sounded fully alive. Later the woman's parents would contact this producer again to tell her that their daughter had indeed passed away.  The used the recording of those two minutes of their daughter singing during her funeral service, and thanked the producer for drawing this out.

I was struck by the impact of this story.  So many times Story Corps has done this to me, but the idea of this young woman using her last recorded moments to express herself through song hit me even harder.  When simple words where not enough, she turned to music and the power of song which released her spirit in a way all the goodbyes in the world couldn't.

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