Sundays I play a final hymn at my parish church and also sing along with a small choir that rehearses just half an hour before the service. I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t sing – and I spent eight years as executive director of what was then Canada’s largest supporting organizations for choirs. Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone reminded us of the importance of choral singing as a way of building community. Choral singing is singing in harmony – a good way to create a living metaphor in a troubled world.
Pat Pattison in the song writing course I took this summer put it even more strongly. Why do people sing, he asked. According to a theorist, Joseph Jordania, it relates to survival. When a large enough group of people got together making noise and throwing sticks, lions sensed the crowd as a big animal and retreated. The crowd got to eat antelope meat and over time grew stronger. Polyphony came before words and created strong bonds and rewards that helped us survive. So at the end of his lecture, Pattison urged us to write and sing songs to engage the tribe – and keep the lions away.
The video is worth your time – even with the commercials for Berkee’s music program.