Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Children and Adults Making Music

There are many things about the holiday services at my church that touch my heart, but one thing in particular really got to me this year: intergenerational musical moments.

During our Children's Holiday Service (where each Sunday School class shares -- in a thematic holiday-oriented way -- what they've been studying), we had an anthem with a small children's choir. Pretty standard stuff, but what wasn't standard was the four adult choir members standing behind the children, singing a soft counterpoint to their melody. They learned the piece together, they rehearsed it together. Therefore, we were spared that whole "LOOK AT THE KIDDIES AREN'T THEY CUTE" situation that so often occurs when children perform music in a worship setting. I thought it was breathtakingly tender and beautiful. Just kids and grownups sharing their music with an appreciative congregation.

At Christmas Eve, we had two very young men (one in college and one right out) provide our prelude and postlude music on piano and saxaphone. These are both children of our church who have done this for both of our services for two years now, and they've also given a concert together at our Center for the Arts. They're terrific. We love them, and they love being there. It didn't occur to me until two nights ago, watching them, that their jazzy take on the Christmas classics adds a bit of contemporary pizzazz to our extremely historic New England traditional Christmas Eve service. I was like, hey, we're kinda cool, man!
And boy, I wish you could have all heard "Ave Maria" played on the alto sax in our quiet, candlelit church as people walked out into the night. You'd think it was kind of sacreligious, but it was like a lullaby right from God for all Her babies.

At the end of our 5 pm service, we had four kindergarten and toddler boys playing the handbells to accompany "Silent Night." I hadn't known that this was planned, and watching their expressions of rapt attention as they played will be forever branded in my memory. The tykes were able to hit every bell perfectly on cue because standing behind each of them was their mother or grandmother, gently tapping them on the shoulder when their time came. Again, adults and children making music. No exploitation of cuteness for the benefit of cooing elders, as makes me so uncomfortable when I've seen it done in churches. Just people who love music making music together. They were conducted by our Music Director's 17 year old son.

I'm not saying that the cuteness factor wasn't extremely high, but the thing is, EVERYONE was cute. The mothers and grandmothers and the teenaged conductor were cute, not just the children. It made you realize that all God's children are just really cute when they're making music together. And that on Christmas Eve, we're all children.


Anonymous Jess said...

This is beautiful, thank you.

Anonymous jinnis said...

Thanks for sharing these great moments. It is amazing how a little imagination can transform a "display" into something much more valuable and meaningful.

Let's hear it for cuteness as an equal opportunity state of being!

Blogger Berrysmom said...

Thanks for speaking up about the Cuteness Factor. I wish I could get my congregation past the "OOoohhh, aren't they wonderfully cute!" response they have to most everything involving children. We have just started mixing up the kids' and the adults' choirs a little bit; maybe that will help.

Two years ago we stopped having the children come forward for the Children's Moment for the same reason. If we engaged the kids in some kind of conversation, one result was always laughter when some kid said something "cute," (which to the kid was probably perfectly normal). When we got the impression that the kids felt they were being laughed AT, we stopped putting them in the spotlight.

Now we do the children's moment with a wireless mic while the kids remain seated with their families--we come to them, instead of the other way around. I like the freedom to move around in the sanctuary and catch kids' eyes or facial expressions, but protect their privacy a bit more.

PB, you're a winner!


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