The diversity of music at Plymouth is an especially joyous facet of my tenure with you. I see musical diversity as a strength which allows for greater connection among a diverse people whose life experiences can be so varied. Beginning on Jubilee Sunday, August 29, the "eclectic" style of worship familiar to those who attended the 6:00 p.m. service moves to the 9:00 a.m. worship time. The 11:00 a.m. service will continue to offer the familiar "traditional" style of worship with organ and choir. Truthfully, musical diversity exists across the entire spectrum of our services with cross pollination freely engaged in. In the end, it is the spiritual essence and intention of the music that can lead us deeper into the divine.
And this mode of spiritual transportation appears in varied guises, to be sure!
A piece of music that is viscerally transcendent to one can be received by another as an outright snoozefest. It is fascinating! A composer's vision—and message— is simply not going to reach everyone universally. It is like trying to plug an HDMI cable into a USB port. It will not work. That is, unless one is willing to invest in an adapter...
It is a healthy venture to be exposed to the musical creations of composers and songwriters both living and past. Just as one can experience the imagination and perspective of a brilliant author (or even just an interesting one!) from the pages of a book, music can broaden one's spiritual, emotional, and intellectual landscape, even if the music is upon first listen off-putting (I find.)
We may not possess the compatible receptors for everything we hear initially—but it is possible that they can grow into being if we're open to it.
A book I think about now and then which relates to this topic is A Song to Sing, A Life to Live by Don and Emily Saliers. I led a Zoom forum on this inspirational and poetic read about a year ago. The father and daughter co-authors come from two very different musical worlds: Don from the liturgical church tradition as an organist, composer, and choral conductor and Emily as one half of the successful folk rock duo Indigo Girls. Together, they explore the spiritual commonality between their respective musical turfs and their joint experiences with cultures worldwide. It is a compelling study and delights in the diversity of musical traditions.
We crave transcendence and music is one of the most effective conduits into this spiritual realm. One person may feel exhilaration at a high decibel heavy metal show while another is uplifted by the sweet melancholy of a band like The Cure. The ancient melodies of Gregorian Chant can bring the faithful to tears while the roar of a pipe organ leading a congregation in an old Germanic hymn could be seen as glorious.
A touch of heaven is only within listening distance when we have willing ears attuned to listen—to really listen. Our souls just have a way to seek out and let in those sounds that create that stir deep within.
Dir. of Music
Mark Heiskanen has been Plymouth's Director of Music since September 2017. Originally from Northeast Ohio, Mark has experience and great interest in a diverse range of musical styles including jazz, rock, musical theatre, and gospel. He is thrilled to serve a congregation and staff that values diversity and inclusion in all facets of life. Read his mostly-weekly Music Minute here.