Music Notes, February 2019

A note from Steve...

Steve Zocchi, Music Director
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I recently heard an excerpt from an NPR interview with Cello legend Yo-Yo Ma. He was speaking to the purpose of music. His words sounded prophetic with a Bach Cello Suite playing in the background. “Music was invented” he said, “as all of culture was invented…by us, to help all of us figure out who we are; what the culture of ‘us’ is, and to start a conversation”. It got me thinking about the importance of music and other art as tools which help us create or maintain a civil society. It made me start to think about possible reasons for the pause in our civility at this time in history. I believe the gutting of music education funding in public schools had led to a sort of music-knowledge deprivation which allows people to expect less and less skill and discipline in their favorite musicians. I also think there is a correlation between a lack of musical education and the sense of disconnectedness people report to be feeling. When people are not taught that harmony exists due to acoustic phenomena understandable through science and strict study, they try to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, leading to music which ignores the laws of physics which govern our realities. The context of universality is lost. Only the lucky few get to attend well-funded music programs at their private schools from which they are quickly whisked away to countless enriching extracurricular activities including piano or violin lessons. Between rich and poor people there is a massive disparity in exposure to actual knowledge of our shared collective human musical achievements. If we all live in our own little musical bubbles (as we choose to do politically) then we lack those beautiful communal moments of total musical connection with others. What’s worse is that we make assumptions about others’ musical tastes because of our own biases based on class, race and age. The chasm grows larger.

I believe this is why Church music is so important. Church can be a weekly reminder of our musical connectedness; a sort of refresher-course in using harmony and melody together in a group. We share in our musical culture and bring to it our own abilities and personal experiences. We have hymns written in four-part harmony, the standard of harmonization we claim from the likes of Bach, which we use regularly. Some folks sing the tune; some folks sing in parts, but what is important is that we share the experience. For those who may prefer more modern styles we have songs which, while being more of our time, are still informed by our inherited musical awareness of the rules of harmony. And we borrow from other cultures occasionally as well. We are lucky to be afforded this experience. And I feel lucky every week to be part of the experience.

SAVE THE DATE… I am doing a piano concert at First Parish on Saturday March 16th at 4:00pm. It will be an eclectic and humorous evening, and the proceeds will be donated to HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society). More on this later.

Thank You all so much.

Your music director,
Steve

Music Notes, January 2019

A note from Steve...

Steve Zocchi, Music Director
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Has this ever happened to you? You reach to your radio (or other sound emitting device) to turn off the music, and you realize it’s not even on; that your brain was playing the music without your conscious knowledge. This happens to me frequently during the holiday season. You see, at my house, the holiday music begins the first of November and goes through January. It is my spouse who puts the music on, and I reach to turn it off. Countless renditions of The Christmas Song and Holly Jolly Christmas fill the air like viruses, ready to invade the already overwhelmed mind of any nearby, hapless victim. And so many of these holiday tunes have hooks and barbs which stick in the mind; interminable music prions which eat away at sanity faster even than politics. Case in point, just reading the words “Feliz Navidad” can cause that song to play in a continuous loop in ones brain. (Your welcome.) Ultimately, this results in a condition I am calling, Interminable Music Syndrome. And, the main symptom is hearing music that is not actually being played, simply because you've heard it, and played it, a thousand times. First World problem I know. The good news is that there is a cure. Church!

At Church we have preserved the tradition of using the best music of the season. Church Christmas Carols and anthems, sung from the heart, are the remedy for the pure commercialism of the holiday music business. The Christmas Eve service at First Parish reverses the adverse effects of months of Interminable Music Syndrome for me. I appreciate the awesome privilege and pleasure it is to be part of the music for those big services. And I am only a small part. It is the time, talent, and energy which all the choirs members and music participants (congregation included) give to the music that makes it so great. Any music director at First Parish is like a tiny surfer riding out the massive wave of music that rushes from such a musical community.

Many thanks to all who make First Parish possible. Every one of you.

Your music director,
Steve

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824

978-256-5133