“Holding History” is the theme of our Worship this month, and it makes me think of how music takes us back to when we first experienced it.  Music can suspend us in time; when we think of hit songs that we loved, we go back to being that age again.  Think of the feel you get from the music during worship and a sense of calm might come over you.  We all have our favorite hymns and even piano pieces that give us a sense of being grounded.  As they remind you of how they felt good then, they continue to make you feel good in this very moment.  That kinesthetic feel is part of now and into tomorrow.

I remember when my father’s job had our family transferring from Wisconsin to Seattle.  We planned a family road trip for the transition and stopped at many national parks along the way.  We tuned into the AM car radio, and that year, the Bob Dylan song Like a Rolling Stone was a hit.  I just loved hearing it, not realizing that psychologically, it allowed me to feel all the angst of moving:  I was actually the “Rolling Stone”, and it helped my life make sense during a difficult time.  Now, when I hear that song, I am again fourteen years old.  I still love hearing it.

We may remember Woodstock, the rock n’roll festival from 1969.  What has recently been brought to our attention is that there was another great music event that same summer in Harlem, NY.  That festival was called The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival and it featured all black artists with a sea of black people attending in a municipal park.  Video recordings of these performances were made at the time, but when it came time to put them together to share them with the world, the funding had run out.  The tapes survived in someone’s basement for fifty years.  And then along came a visionary director and musician by the name of Questlove, who made the film, “Summer of Soul”.  The performances are riveting by (to name a few) Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, The Fifth Dimension, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Mahalia Jackson.   Music and history come together in this film, and I would highly recommend you watch it.  If that is in any way difficult for you, please reach out to Guy and me, and we would share it with you. 

Questlove has published a book called Music is History.  I can’t wait to see it.  It was released in October this year, and we have our copy ordered.

As we look back at our personal and collective history remembering how past times made us who we are now, we also can look forward as we create our present and future.  There is a new Broadway musical that is being performed in Boston just now, Hadestown.  It is just wonderful—you could hear it on your cell phone or go the theater to see the show.  I like being open to new sounds, new songs, new artists, and to the creative talents of those around me.  That includes the talents of people in our midst. 

Someday in the future, when we look back on these days, I think we will remember how our music has sustained us, and how it continues to keep us together.   With the talents of our awesome congregation, our music continues to tell our stories, connecting past to present to future.

May it be so!

Musical happenings in November:
We thank Carole Berney and Nick Woebcke for being music leaders for us during Guy’s absence. 
Guy will return to play at the worship service on Nov. 14th.
The First Parish Choir will sing, in person, on Nov. 21st—masked and somewhat distanced.  The anthem we will share is called My Singing Bird.

Charlyn Bethell
Music Director | + posts

Charlyn’s professional training has followed two paths: as a professional oboist and as a music teacher and conductor. As Music Director at First Parish, she joins these two paths of her musical life, conducting the choir, coordinating guest musicians, and performing on oboe.