Last year, I attended the funeral of one of Greater Chicagoland’s and Northwest Indiana’s great polka concertina players, who happens to be the grandfather of my brother-in-law. In his 94 years on the planet, he made music an integral part of his life, and passed his love of music down to his grandchildren who intend to pass the gift to their children.
At the funeral service, the priest gave a wonderful sermon on the powerful impact of music. This was by far one of the most moving homilies I had ever heard simply because music is hardly discussed in Church today. In fact, in most of the Catholic Churches I’ve attended, hardly anyone sings anymore. Coming from a background in pastoral music, this is a travesty because, as it has been stated, when one sings, one prays twice!
“How appropriate,” I thought, “that music sums up the life of a person at their eulogy. Music is celebratory. The priest spoke of the expressiveness of music–that in many cultures, music is played to express our happiness and to soothe our pain. Sharing music with others in a community, where everyone participates in song or instrumental playing, impacts our emotions on a very deep and effecting way. There was indeed a satisfaction felt when we joined together in song and an air of celebration, hope, and joy amid the mire of sadness.
Listening to his words, I was reminded of a Dixieland funeral where jazz would be played in the street during the procession. The bluesy tone helps with the sadness, and the upbeat fun of the beat reminds us of the celebration of this person’s life and the hope that we will again see this person at the end of our time. Truly, the blues itself expresses sorrow with the intent of sharing with others from the very spirit, healing in its catharsis. This music is not intended to be simply listened to–it begs us to participate, to respond to its call–like a responsorial psalm.
This is, therefore, a call to mankind: lift up your voices, sing together, drum, and let music–the creation and co-creation of music–be an integral part of your life. You will be a healthier and happier person for it. And smile: God loves you for He has given us this great gift!