Sunday, January 20, 2008

Carry your part...

By now even I realize I see the beginnings of trends that never happen. I link a few anecdotes together and bless it as data, but on rare occasions I see a pattern that actually emerges later. Here is one that should seem familiar to long-time readers:

I think choral singing - or group singing, or whatever label - is being revitalized or rediscovered in many different forms both sacred and secular to feed a hunger for connectedness with a purpose. Sure, you can rack up friends on "MyFace" websites and party hearty with whoever shows up at the bar. But if you have the slightest appreciation for music, few experiences can touch you as emotionally or command your concentration or provide instantaneous joy like singing in a group. And I further suggest the effects are powerfully long-lasting.

So even while my small choir struggles, I find hope for the future in events like these.
Music has been central to Estonian culture for centuries. Although Estonia is one of the smallest countries in the world, it nonetheless has one of the largest collections of folk songs. But Estonians have historically used music as a political weapon as well. It is said that song was used in protest of the German invaders of the 13th century, and also in resistance to the Russian occupation under Peter the Great in the 18th century.

In the 19th century, Estonians started a song festival tradition called Laulupidu, where choirs from around the country come together to sing for days. 25,000 to 30,000 people sing on stage at the same time. But the founding of Laulupidu was as much an expression of the desire for self-determination and independence as about song. In the late 1980’s music was once again used as a unifying force when hundreds of thousands gathered to sing forbidden Estonian songs, demanding their right for self-determination from a brutal Soviet occupier.

To truly understand Estonia, one must understand Estonian music. [More]
It's hard to picture Americans unplugging their iPods to un-electronically join together for home-made music, but that's approximately where I think we could be heading. I know I have found few life experiences which provide the joy and team spirit of group singing.

I also think this could be one part of the rebuilding of social capital around the world.

2 comments:

Stephen said...

John,

Last summer we had the priviledge of having Casting Crowns at the Iowa State Fair. It was said to be the most heavily attended grandstand event at the fair. Unlike most concerts, they engaged the crowd by providing lyrics on screens and encouraged everyone to sing along on every song. 9,000+ strangers on a beautiful summer evening on our feet singing with all our might about the one thing we all had in common - our faith. As you said, if you have any appreciation for music, few things can compare to what we enjoyed that night. Casting Crowns doesn't sing party music, but it was an awesome time of reflection and accountability. Would hate to have missed that experience. Now throw me in a church choir, and I'll curl up in a ball (childhood wounds), but to each his own.

John Phipps said...

Stephen:

Great story - and what an inspiring experience.

I hope we create more chances for people to feel this type of event.