For those of you who have not been living on the far side of the Moon, it’s fairly obvious that the day after Thanksgiving, America becomes 100% consumed with Christmas. That’s okay in my book and even I welcome its entrance. I’ve always considered myself to be a spiritual person, much more so than religious; Religions get all tangled up in rules about the best way, or the only way, to reach out to G-d. For me, if I open my heart, G-d will find me.
Why did I write this elaborate opening to a music article? In the piano teaching studio my wife and I run, we have a significant variety of religions represented by our student base. One of the reasons is all the major drug companies here in New Jersey recruit scientists from around the world. In addition to the 57 flavors of Christianity, we have Muslims and Jews, Shinto followers, Baha’i , Shiks, numerous Buddhists, Hindu, Taoism etc.
We try to provide music that is particular to a families cultural roots but we thought that Christmas would provide a unique challenge in our multi- religious environment. We found out how wrong this assumption was. Here is how we found out. Every year that we have a student capable of singing and playing the two pieces shown below, we make it the showcase point of our student Concert.
What we do is turn off all the lights in our Concert room and since it is evening, the room is completely dark. We then light about 15 candles around the room to provide minimal illumination (about enough for the pianist to see the keys). When this happens there is a hush that takes over the whole room. Then our pianist/singer launches into these pieces. This year’s pianist/singer is a senior in High School who will be attending a music college – she is REALLY good. When she gets to the part about “Fall on Your Knees”, we are no longer surprised when some Jew, Muslim or Buddhist actually does this and starts to pray in their own old language, Any family who has experienced this Christmas music in the dark says it is one of the most profound emotional experiences of their Life. Music can, and should be, a spiritual experience and it really does not matter what a person’s underlying Religious beliefs are. Some people think Christmas has become too commercial and secular. We try to make sure Christmas is spiritual and when you hear Jews, Muslims and others try to sing along with lyrics like “ the night of our dear savior’s birth” it becomes affirmation that there is much more that is shared by humans than what divides us
Last year when a Muslim man dropped to his knees to pray, I went over to him and took his hands in mine/ As his face turned toward me and his eyes searched mine, I could literally see in his eyes a video of his life in Lebanon where he fled the sectarian violence and destruction. I gently said to him “ You are Loved” and you could almost see the pain, fear and anguish leave his body.
So this year’s Friday night concert starts at 7:00pm and somewhere around 8:25 to 8:35 these two pieces will be played and sung with everything dark except for some candle light. If possible, listen to these two YouTube videos on Friday night around 8:30 and see if you catch the Spiritual wind of G-d’s goodness across thousands of physical miles between us but probably inches in TMV reality.