Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Ears

Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Ears

One of the many things I love about UUCC and its people is the fact that we really try to “live our values,” as our Covenant says. Goodness knows we sometimes fall short as individuals and as a congregation — and as a denomination. But at our best we are as open-minded and -hearted as we like to think we always are. We try to affirm this in our Music Ministry, a ministry we share with each other when we sing and play together, and listen with open ears and open minds.

The Seven Principles speak eloquently of “inherent worth and dignity,” of “acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth,” of “world community”; and the Sources of the Living Tradition remind us that we draw inspiration from all the world’s cultures and religions, as we seek a “renewal of the spirit.” A big, inclusive tent!

To those few who sometimes use categorical thinking to exclude, I love to quote Louis Armstrong: “All music is folk music; I ain’t never heard no horse sing.”

UUCC's Chalice Choir
UUCC’s Chalice Choir, 2016

When I served as a Good Officer for the denomination’s musicians, helping to solve problems and resolve conflicts, I used to hear complaints from too many Music Director colleagues that their choir and congregation were closed-minded about the music they wanted in the services. Some folks refused to sing, say, gospel music, or “classical” music, or jazz, or folk music, or pop, or rock, or Afro-Cuban music, or anything with a Christian or indeed theistic text. Thank goodness we hear very little of that kind of talk in UU circles these days.

There’s an old joke about UU congregations being poor singers because they were always looking ahead in the hymn to see if they agreed with the words. That may have been true years ago in some congregations, but not at UUCC today — thanks!

If you’ve attended services at UUCC, I hope you’ve noticed that we always try hard to select music that fits both the content and tone of each service, selecting from a very broad range of musical styles and repertoires:

  • great gospel music and spirituals by African American composers and arrangers (Tindley, Dorsey, Hairston, Crouch, Dawson, Hogan, Dilworth, for example);
  • new UU-composed music (there’s been an outpouring of fine new choral music and songs by UU composers, including our own John Shea, Carla Gates, Karl Branting, Tom Monroe, Harry Woelffer);
  • colorful and energizing music of South and West Africa, Cuba and Central America, often with drumming;
  • “vernacular” musics, including pop, folk, soft rock, Broadway and jazz (Ellington, Joplin, Carly Simon, Leonard Cohen, U2, Dolly Parton, Pentatonix; Rent, Godspell, West Side Story);
  • music from the “classical” western European choral tradition, from the 15th through the 21st century: anthems by Palestrina, Byrd, Purcell, Thompson, Chatman, Paulus, Whitacre, Lauridsen and many more; large choral works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Brahms, Britten, Poulenc …

UUCC member John Shea’s composition, “Blessed Be,” sung by the Chalice Choir, UUCC’s adult choir

… and then there are our two concert series, the Chalice Concerts and the One World Coffee House, bringing our larger community the best chamber and vocal music, rock, folk, pop, poetry and jazz.

Michael Adcock, Jeremy Rea, and I; and our performers — the Chalice Choir, Chalice Singers, Chalice Lights, Chalice Messengers — and all our wonderful UUCC musicians in all styles — are proud and grateful that we can make music of all kinds in a congregation with open minds, hearts and ears.

Blessings —
Tom Benjamin
Minister of Music

Editor’s note: The music staff referred to by name in the post include, in addition to Minister of Music Tom Benjamin: Michael Adcock (Associate Director of Music Ministry and pianist) and Jeremy Rea (Director of Youth Music). You can read more about them here.  The performers include the Chalice Choir (adult choir); Chalice Singers (small select ensemble); and Chalice Lights (youth choir) — described here; and the Chalice Messengers (jazz sextet).


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