Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Little Bit About HIM Sings

The HIM Sing

I am writing in an effort to explain why I am bringing Hymn Sings into area nursing homes. It is something I have been doing for years -- by myself and with others. Recently I have been joined by The Sometimes Singalongers, friends who have been invited to show up or not, occasionally or regularly, without any strings attached. It's been awesome for us to join our voices, unrehearsed, and just flow with the Spirit. What JOY to bring old-timey hymns and patriotic songs to people who, quite frankly spend most of their time sitting around, staring at The Exit Door.

I first saw the need for this when I heard another musician singing the same exact same tunes I was bringing to the residents at that point: songs like Aint' She Sweet, You Are My Sunshine, and Five Foot Two. I saw they wanted more -- so one day I offered Amazing Grace and found them highly responsive. They wanted more, so I sang more -- On Eagle's Wings, It Is Well With My SoulHow Great Thou Art. A warmth and a sweetness overcame the room -- and it was palpable. We sang Blessed Assurance, and then I knew: this was the need. Theirs and mine.

That is why the term “entertainer” no longer sits very well with me. I now know the reason why. It came to me by reading an essay by Karl Paulnack from the Boston Conservatory of Music, who said:

A musician is more of a paramedic than an entertainer. I’m not interested in entertaining you; I’m interested in keeping you alive. Fully alive. We’re a lot like cardiac surgeons; we hold people’s hearts in our hands every day. We just use different instruments to help each other with our internal, invisible lives. That is what we do.

I found his essay illuminating, because it aligned with my experience in the nursing homes. No matter how many wheelchairs are in the room, there is always a visible response to the old familiar hymns. It's as though they knead themselves into people's hearts, gently, steadily, strongly -- kneading comfort and calm into people who are staring at The Exit Door.

And do they ever know the lyrics! I think the music may actually unlock “tangles” of dendrites and literally "unknot" communication skills. I watch people who are debilitated or disabled start to mouth the words and even sing along. It's as though they have been given an especially delicious  food. Know I know that indeed they have: HIM, Who is the Bread of Life and the Living Water... The food of faith that feeds the Holy Spirit.

In summary, I see (1) a mental acuity aspect to the singing; (2) I see a lot of physical therapy aspects, but mostly, (3) I see emotional aspects that connect God's people in ways that are warm and joyful and true. There is such a sweet sense of His Presence among us when the Song Circle is centered on HIM. I feel blessed among women to be able to sing the Word of God with people who know that their next step is going through that Exit Door. 

Thanks for listening.

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