The Humanity of Classical Music and the Church

The Humanity of Classical Music and the Church

If you’re in Newcastle (NSW), the Newcastle Music Festival has commenced and runs until 21st August – go and have a listen, and dare to clap when the time is right!

It’s no secret that a lot of community centres are struggling to continue these days. From churches to community outreach programs, from opera houses to bowling clubs.

The struggle to connect as a community is real. I’m sure it has always been there, but perhaps once upon a time the act of connecting as a community didn’t have to compete with television and the other media that entice us to stay home these days.

Two of those community areas that I am involved with are church and music.

Both are heavily embedded in our western history and yet both seem to be struggling to connect with the population and struggling to stay relevant to current society.This is my perception of these mediums from a generalised and “overall” view.

Yet, I have found, when experienced at a personal level both are often well received and most often welcomed. By saying this I am suggesting that a personal expression of a faith/religion (perhaps the offering of help at a difficult time) or a personal expression of music (perhaps a performance of a piano piece for friends within a home setting) can be an extremely powerful and emotional experience for a great deal of people who would not necessarily consider attending a church service or a classical piano recital.

Have these two structures (religion and classical music) become too big, too structured, too “un-human” for the majority of society to connect with? Have they lost touch with their roots and the reasons they first came to be a part of our culture and our society?

Early operas were held in small sitting rooms, or if in a bigger opera house, then they were attended by people who were also gambling and socialising (amongst other things…). This is far from the silence and concentration that is expected of opera/classical music audience members these days – a silence that many find has them worrying if they will know when to clap or how on earth they will stifle their cough for another 40 minutes.

And if I refer to the religion of Christianity (as this is the one I am personally familiar with), Jesus himself was fighting against the rules and traditions of the church body, speaking of being governed by love and compassion instead. Can it be said that the Christian church today is known for being governed by rules or by love? (I’ll let you answer that one..)

In my perfect world I would love to see our world-wide society work its way back to inclusive, loving experiences of church (because it CAN be an amazing way to be a part of your community while also focusing within yourself) AND to personal and welcoming experiences of the AMAZING music that has been passed down from generation to generation (or from orchestra to orchestra, from pianist to pianist, from singer to singer etc).

I think this means a level of forgiveness is needed from both sides. Perhaps those performing (church leaders or musicians) could allow people to start from scratch again – no “assumed knowledge” before entering (and in my perfect world, no dress codes either)! And perhaps those participating (congregation and audience) could remember that these people who are presenting either music or spiritual ideas are human too. Their words and their music are designed to connect with us, and tell us a story, that really only the individual gets to truly hear – every persons interpretation is different. How amazing!! But WE have to start to listen.

Maybe dare to have a listen some time soon!