One of the reasons I like to be a musician is because playing music gives me social experiences that would be difficult to encounter in one's average, everyday life. Sometimes these spine-tingling moments occur for me at predictable times - during a chamber music performance, accompanying a choir, working with a young musician who is experiencing joy in music for the first time, performing alongside my husband - but other times I am caught completely off guard. Yesterday I had one of those moments but it wasn't just with a handful of people like it often is, it was with a church full of people.
I play piano at our church on a fairly regular basis, but more often than not, I am either accompanying a youth choir, playing a solo for a special music slot in the service, or playing alongside the organ during the hymns. During times of congregational singing, I love the feeling of being able to subtly alter the mood of a congregation just by adding a new timbre. Yesterday, because our organist was on vacation, I was taken out of this solely supportive role and given the opportunity to be a facilitator between the music and the people in attendance. Whereas the congregation usually feels more like an audience to me, this time they were active participants in a completely magical experience in which all of us took flight on the wings of sound and word.
Synergy. It was truly a moment of synergy; a moment when the notes coming from the piano and the voices of the church community mixed together to produce an energy in the air much more powerful than either musical instrument alone could ever have created. At one point I moved the hymn up an octave so that the voices could take the lead. The sound coming at me from the congregation when I did this completely took my breath away. I had to remind myself to keep playing the piano. Now that I think back, I probably could have just stopped altogether and maybe I should have. Doesn't matter much now but it does show how powerful that moment was.
So why write about this experience? Why spend an hour writing about a moment that lasted, at most, a minute or two? Because I think it's important to remember, as musicians, as performers, how magical, how enchanting, how spiritual music can be. And I think it's important to acknowledge the intense musicality that is inherent in each and every member of one's audience and the powerful experience their engagement can produce. Although I am actually not a "believer" in the traditional Christian or religious sense - I am thankful for spiritual moments such as the one I experienced this past Sunday. I will never forget the feeling I had when I let go of being a performer and chose to ride on the wings of the congregation's voices instead.
Synergy. Beautiful, spectacular synergy.