A note from Steve...
Music is nutrition. No, that's too weak of a statement. Music is medicine. And, it is most effective when taken preventively, in massive doses, before it is actually needed. A ritual of daily listening seems to give one immunity to some of the usual ails of being human. It can mellow the stress response and organize thoughts. It has a lasting impact on mood and perspective. It seems that music can literally reduce physical pain. And one should always take the pure stuff, your favorite music, as often as possible. Don't save a song for that special occasion... listen to it today. I find myself occasionally putting off a good listening session much the same way one puts off a phone call to a friend or loved one. I'll wait till I really need it, I tell myself, or when I have more time. But, like a conversation with an old friend to whom you turn with your most honest vulnerabilities, a familiar piece of music can create a sanctuary from which you emerge stronger and more fully yourself. It sounds like hyperbole, but it's truth.
For me, the Finale to Mozart's Jupiter Symphony does the trick every time. That piece acts directly on the brain, like sonic serotonin. In my darkest days, Mozart has pulled me from the abyss and made me simultaneously laugh and cry with ecstatic gratitude. (All of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos have a similar effect, but they are so potent that it's impossible to function while listening to them.) I'm sure we all have a few pieces that have saved us at certain times in our lives. Why don't we listen to those pieces more often?
And finding new music you love is also medicinal. Like discovering a new friend who brings an interesting history and fascinating ideas to the conversation, new music can challenge the mind and generate new ways of thinking. I occasionally "discover" composers whose music is new to me and I cherish the process of studying their work. Sometimes it's even sappy Pop music. I am unashamedly a huge John Mayer fan. His song "Stop This Train" makes me cry sloppily every time I listen to it...
But, I think the best way to administer this miracle drug called music is to actually participle in making music. I firmly believe that almost everyone has some innate musical talent that should be affirmed and harnessed. Singing with other people has proven health benefits, even if one is not perfectly on pitch. Making music with other people is healthy for the individual, the primary group, and society at large. Making music together helps humans live in harmony, literally. And this is one of the greatest parts of being Music Director at First Parish. We use music as an integral part of spirituality. It is not merely incidental or decoration. Everyone is so musical and willing to participate and share in the joy of music. It is truly medicinal. I love you all for that. Thank you.
Your music director,
A note from Steve...
Summer is not my favorite season. Although I have enjoyed extra time with family, meeting beautiful new friends, and the delicious weather, summer always represents a time away from the piano. I prefer the cooler, slightly melancholic days of fall. The changes in weather seem to usher in a season of thoughtful, hard work. Fall feels like a more serious season. It’s a time for contemplation and a time for studying, learning. Perhaps watching the trees becoming dormant makes one more keenly aware of mortality in the fall. And it seems to me that a brave awareness of mortality is a defining feature of a conscious being. For me, consciousness feels more tangible and real in the fall. It is a time to look life in the eyes and not blink; to not miss a moment. No more days wasted mindlessly by the pool. Choirs reunite, instruments get tuned, beach days can be set aside for the more intrinsically pleasing practice days. The art of improvement begins anew.
As this Church year begins I am reminded of why I became a musician in the first place. Love. Love is the purpose of our music-making here at First Parish. It is about love for each other, for our community, for the larger world, and for the universe itself. I sometimes think the overtone series which makes tonality and all music possible is proof of a benevolent cosmos; a gift given to us by the very laws of physics which govern reality. From the miracle of Bach and Mozart to the simplest tune, we can bask in the glory and the love of a universe which we can otherwise hardly even understand at all. And this gift of music which lets us join purposefully together in song is truly a balm for our humanity. It’s that simple, and it’s that important.
Lofty thoughts aside, the real fun is in the details and in the work itself…the rehearsing, the learning, the laughing, the processing. I enjoy working with (and for) you all so much. I look forward to sharing music with all of you every week. It is the highpoint of my week. It is with humility and gratitude that I begin my fourth year as your music director. Thank you.
Your music director,