In Between

My sister-in-law shared the following quote on Facebook yesterday:

The ancient Druids are said to have taken a special interest in in-between things like mistletoe, which is neither quite a plant nor quite a tree, and mist, which is neither quite a rain nor quite air, and dreams, which are neither quite waking nor quite sleep. They believed that in such things as those they were able to glimpse the mystery of the two worlds at once.

– Frederick Buechner

That’s choral music.

Neither talking nor instrumental music. Neither an operatic soloist, nor an untrained folk singer. Almost always in between full-time professionals and just congregations singing hymns.

Is it any wonder that choral music remains such an important part of so many religious traditions? It speaks to the in-betweenness that has engaged mystics for thousands of years.

On the holy days for Christian traditions – Christmas, Easter – we generally hear the most choral music. It seems clear that the transcendence we seek in these special days was made for choirs.

I don’t think there is a musical genre more in touch with spirituality and transcendence than choral music. A college classmate recently wrote, “Words cause a sort of reductionism that forces a particular interpretation and experience; not so in instrumental music. …There is a depth that is only possible to express sans words.”

I completely disagree. All music seeks transcendence; the combination of text and tune is for me the most reliable way to reach that transcendence.

For my readers celebrating Easter today, I wish you a day filled with transcendent choral music. Here’s a great place to start.