I have great difficulty with the certainty in, and the stories behind, religions. God seems to be a very good idea, and a jolly necessary concept. But as a child, I was horrified by the idea that Man made God in his own image. That set the cat amongst the pigeons, and for many a year, I was conscious that it was all the wrong way round, and that we, the people, were being fooled and God didn't make us at all, we made God. Oh that bothered me so much. How is this, I thought, that we made God and the church (I was raised a Catholic) is carrying on as if they hadn't heard and were sticking to the old story that God got there first, and made us. "I'm a child," I thought, with rising panic, "and I know this, it's out there in black and white, what is wrong with them!" This thinking manifested itself by causing a distance between me and music of any kind in the church, with hymns, choral music, and even big fancy Requiem Masses. It caused a distance between me and any kind of religious music. I could love the effect, but I got stuck at the silliness of believing all the doctrines of the church, and I could not understand how anyone, who had the gift of music in them, could write music and songs around it. And Verdi, who wrote my favourite Requiem, if he was so clever, what on earth was he doing writing a funeral mass?
I spent much of my life thinking that those who wrote for the church, about the church, and in the church, were possibly wonderful people, but had a bit of a problem with reality.
I stood in a congregation last night, celebrating ten years of a friend's priesthood. On the one side of the altar, was a small choir, with an organist, on the other side of the altar was another local choir, with a drum and some maracas. It was while listening to the choirs that I had a glimpse of what it was all about. The passion and the creativity in church music is not about the church doctrines. It's not about words or philosophy, it's not really about rules at all. Inside an artist is a need to create and to express. Simple. But how does that feel? Oh the thing about creativity is that it is something quite other, quite beyond our rational mind, quite different from the need to sit down, the need to eat, the need to have a long bubble bath. Creativity is something that is both inside us and outside us. In order to access it - and you do have to access it - you have to give in to it, and step outside yourself to let it in and let it work with you. I think the Ancient Greeks believed that your talent, your Genius, was not in and of you, it was outside of you, a divine gift, and you had to ask for it to come to you.
It is not the same as inspiration. If we wait for inspiration, we will never do anything. Inspiration is always just a bit beyond us, and just a little bit esoteric, and waiting for it, keeps it at bay. Inspiration is the icing on the cake. If it is there, fabulous. If it is not, carry on anyway. Creativity lives in all of us, inspiration is a gift that we can produce for ourselves by using our creativity, and the result becomes expression. Oh and isn't expression the thing we crave? To express ourselves, to say our piece, to be seen, heard and understood? To express ourselves in our clothes, our choices, our friends, our reading matter, to express ourselves in our opinions? What if you could write music to express yourself? What if you could step aside from yourself to let in this thing called creativity, and you grasped your inspiration, and used it all make something that was a total expression of your experience and gift? My Eureka moment was that it is not the church, the doctrines, or the stories that made such glorious music, it was something so different and so deep and so wonderful, something so God given and divine, that caused the writing of the music. The church is a vehicle, the creativity is on a par with the divine itself. And the expression of it, is the gift we receive.
Those singers singing with the drums in the church last night, were taking part in this divine spark by singing. They were co operating with the whole creation/inspiration thing by expressing, and by expressing, by singing and using the music to step outside of themselves to let in that "other" that I call divine creativity, they were joining and affirming the spark that the creator of the music took and used and made something of in the first place.
I saw that it didn't matter that the words and setting were religious. I saw how God, who I do believe exists and is my personal friend, breathes creativity into all of us, and watches us ignite each other. One person's work, by stepping aside and entering into their creativity and working with it to create, for example, a piece of music with some bongos and some local singers, is used by those singers to express themselves by singing at the tops of their voices, for us who listen and are moved to sing too, and so we all end up expressing ourselves. So Verdi, who wrote that marvellous Requiem Mass, is giving vent to this thing that he can do, and he is doing it. The Catholic church is his vehicle. It's not about the church, though it is for the church, it is a direct connection to the mind and heart of God, and so beyond words and analysis completely. My Eureka moment was that we are following religions, we are searching for meaning, we are looking for answers and we are longing for something to explain ourselves to ourselves, and the answer is in this extraordinary thing called creativity.
Now that I have this straight I can listen to church music, and be as moved as if God had leaned over and touched me with divine finger tips, and whispered in my ear, "Go Girl. It's what it's all about, cry if you want to, wave your hands in the air, whatever. Just shed the attitude and step into the light and let's groove".