After listening to a piano concert last week, I was reminded of how amazing it is when great music and great skill collide. My mind began meandering through all of the great (and not so great) music I’ve heard and been part of through the years. Before you read any further, I should tell you that this post might not have a point except to express what music is, and has been, to me. But since there’s a good chance you appreciate music too, maybe we could take a few moments to ramble through some musical thoughts together. Who knows? Maybe a point will emerge.
My dad used to tell us the story that on Sunday afternoons, his dad would put a record on the stereo (back in the Dark Ages when vinyl was it) and the family would gather around and listen. They didn’t do anything else; the music wasn’t a background to whatever activity was taking place. It was the activity. Grandpa, who had attended a piano conservatory until his mother’s illness forced him to drop out, had modern musical tastes. He had no use for “old guys” like Mozart or Beethoven. His favorite composer was the contemporary jazz-classical artist George Gershwin. To this day, disliking Gershwin is not an option in our family. He’s fabulous. If you’re not familiar with him, download him and give a listen.
My mom’s parents made music. Granddad and Nana loved to sing; Granddad composed a love song for Nana that my cousin used in her own wedding ceremony years later. Nana’s piano had pride of place in their living room, blanketed with a rotating pile of sheet music which testified to frequent use. My own parents sing and play (Mom, violin and Dad, guitar). When we get together for family reunions, everyone who plays an instrument pulls it out and we have a singalong. At various times this has included guitars (acoustic and electric), a ukulele, banjo, piano, autoharp, egg shakers and bongo drums. The year my brother handed nose whistles to the nieces and nephews was particularly entertaining.
With this heritage, my kids could not escape their musical DNA. When my oldest daughter was a toddler, she thought everything in life had its own song because we would make up songs as we went through our days. So when her grandma (my mom) visited, she fully expected Grandma to know the “Happy Donalds (McDonalds) Song”. Fortunately, mom is quick with a lyric and made up something on the spot without blinking an eye, and all was right with my daughter’s world. Being homeschoolers, we had to figure out some sort of musical curriculum since choir and band weren’t options. Our solution was to have the kids choose either piano or guitar, and take lessons. Fortunately they didn’t protest too much and have turned into wonderful musicians who have used their gifts to bless many people. Oh, and they’re still champion nose whistlers.
We’re All In
One thing I love about music is its accessibility; you don’t have to be able to play or sing it to participate in it. It’s universal. Attend any concert in any genre and you see it: the passionate enjoyment of something that speaks to our souls. It’s a potent force precisely because we’re hard-wired to like it. God created music, and He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26).
While I might have my favorite musical styles (hello jazz and classical… goodbye screamo), I love that there are so many genres. Music is adaptable; this is the reason it’s always been able to appeal to anyone in any generation. Its ever-changing nature is actually one of its greatest strengths because this gives us continual new ways to enjoy it. Music’s ability to morph and change also helps us find new ways to utilize it in its premier role: as worship to the Lord. But let me also say that I believe any music, offered to the Lord as a blessing to Him, is worship whether or not it’s happening within the walls of a church.
Can I tell you about my all-time favorite musical reference in the Bible? It’s 1 Chronicles 25, where King David is building the Temple according to God’s instructions. Chapter 25 describes how God called the musicians who were going to serve in full-time worship of Him. What thrills me is that this was a legit vocation, just like being a priest or a soldier. These people (men AND WOMEN! Yay!) were required to be very skillful. They also had to be able to “prophesy on their instruments” and sing “the song of the Lord”. I love those verses and have asked the Lord for deeper understanding of them when I play the keyboard at church.
I remember a sign that hung on the wall in my piano teacher’s home: “Music is a fair and glorious gift of God.” I probably remember it because I stared blankly at it every week instead of paying attention to my lesson. But I’ve come to be intensely grateful for its truth. I’m thankful that God saw fit to give us music and the capacity to enjoy it with Him and with each other.
What are your musical memories? Feel free to comment!