In this time of remembering I found myself speaking at the Royal School of Church Music Festival in Exeter Cathedral and I was reminded of the possibility that music holds to bring peace. Peace within oneself, with God and within the world.
Music holds the possibility of enabling us to fly unburdened in the regions beyond our uttermost reach beyond and beneath emotion, will and intellect. It tells the message of love, it communicates and inspires and it holds the possibility for us to change.
Musicians can take words and by setting them to music gives them a depth of meaning which transcends their literary limitations. Music has been used for 100’s of years as a conscious way of recalling God through creative work, as a way of lifting up the soul, ways of entering into God and as a means of expressing the transcendent. Music not only talks of God but also holds the possibility to demonstrate God – demonstrating love, mercy and forgiveness.
I was reminded this week of the The West-Eastern Divan orchestra. Formed in 1999 it is formed of Arab and Israeli musicians, who defy the fierce political divides in the Middle East. The origins of the West-Eastern Divan lie in the conversations between its founders, Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim. Over the course of their great friendship, the Palestinian author/scholar and Israeli conductor/pianist discussed ideas on music, culture and humanity. Their music became an alternative way to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and brining peace.
Religion is not music and music is not religion so church musicians have a responsibility to ensure that good music doesn’t become the god rather ensuring it enables us to see God unseen and to help us to proclaim God as King and to create peace within our walls.
‘Peace shall be within thy walls; and plenteousness within they palaces’ Psalm 122 verse 7