Two nights ago, on Tuesday, I had an opportunity to go with a friend (yay Arlene!) to a Chris Tomlin concert. For the uninitiated folks out there, Tomlin is an internationally renowned Christian recording artist who has written quite a number of the worship songs sung in churches today. I think he hails out of Texas. He's got some really great music and I loved being able to sing along with most of the songs.
It struck me at the concert, as it has many other times in my life, how much music seems to touch me, move me, at the very core of my being. It can often be a spiritual thing for me. I'm not sure whether it's my somewhat musical background that has led to this experience or if others are like this, too. But most types of music can have this affect on me: from classical to classic rock & roll; from live (and some recorded) jazz to worship; from instrumental to choral. It all seems to have the ability to have a powerful impact on me. As I've mentioned on my blog once before, even some modern country (such as Lady Antebellum's Run to Me) can have that effect. More shocking, perhaps, is the news that even opera can occasionally move me; maybe this is the result of my grandparents giving me, my sister and our cousins seasons tickets to the opera for several Christmases in a row when we were teens.
When I was in my twenties, I went on a music study tour of Europe for several weeks, with fourteen other university students and a professor. It was quite an incredible experience, and in most of the major cities we stopped at, we took turns presenting to the group a few things about a composer we'd chosen to research. For example, I chose Mozart as one of my composers and it felt rather surreal to present my report to the others in the grassy courtyard just outside Mozart's birthplace in Salzburg, Austria. That was a moment. One of the forays that we made on that tour was over the west German border into East Germany, at a time when the Berlin wall had just recently started to come down (that's another story - how I got my freshly-chipped two-pound piece of the Berlin wall...I still have it). We drove our van through the famous Checkpoint Charlie and drove until we reached Leipzig - which we noted, as we drove and walked through the streets there, looked like the war had just ended, so bombed out and blackened were many of the buildings. But I digress. One of the few preserved (or renovated) buildings in that lovely city was a concert hall and we attended an organ concert there. Now, an organ concert might not sound like the most exciting venture for most people and, in all truth, that was one of the musical events I'd least been looking forward to. So I had low expectations going in. But wow - I've never forgotten it. The organist played for about 90 minutes and it was one of those organs with pipes going from floor to ceiling of the vaulted concert hall, and the sounds reverberated perfectly in that hall. I was utterly riveted, albeit somewhat embarrassed at one point to find my cheeks tear-wettened and my hand a bit blackened from smeared eye makeup. Furtively glancing around to see how others were being affected and wondering if anyone had noticed my tears, I noticed that two other people (including the one guy that I knew prior to going on the trip) were sleeping. Impossible! I could hardly believe it - how could anyone sleep through one of the most beautiful things I'd ever heard?
But that's just me. Music gets to me, even when self-created. Perhaps #102 on my list of 101 Things About Me (in case you've been reading earlier blog entries) is this: On those rare occasions when I am alone in my house, one of my favourite things to do is to go to my piano and just play - not other people's music...just my own in-the-moment creations that I will not be able to remember the next day but which come from somewhere deep inside. No one ever hears this stuff; it's something I do only for myself. Music has the ability to comfort me, inspire me, provoke me to worship, energize me to new beginnings, humble me, fill me up, make me believe once again that life is good.
Attending the concert on Tuesday evening was something like that for me. Once, while I was standing there listening, a little experiment that I'd done with Matthew a few weeks ago crossed my mind. We (he, more specifically) had been learning about his five senses; at one point, he was learning why he could smell, or hear, better, if he blocked off his other senses...to enable your remaining sense(s) to focus more intently. When we were experimenting with our sense of hearing, we went into one of our bathrooms without a window, and we closed the door so that it was completely dark. We closed our eyes (a formality only in such a dark room), plugged our noses, and we focused on our sense of hearing. What we heard was the faucet dripping (arranged moments earlier by me, unbeknownst to Matthew), the cat stretching and grunting in the family room, each other's breathing, the accidental brush of my pant leg against the plastic bag in the garbag can, and a few other things. Matthew was astounded by how much better he could hear when he had blocked off his other senses.
For a while, then, on Tuesday night, remembering this experiment, I stood with my head bowed and eyes closed, just letting the music take over and permeate. Sure enough - the sounds became more real to me and I could pick out the different instruments. The clarity of Tomlin's voice became more pronounced, and the words took on fresh meaning. Every sound was more poignant somehow, as if moving by in slow motion. It felt like a God moment to me, because worship music brings out that deepest part of me. Two days later, a few of those songs are still working their way through my system.