a reflection by LYNSEY BAILEY
With Festival time on us, the arts come to the fore. For me, music is such a big part of my life that when I was asked to write this reflection, it seemed the perfect topic. There is something about music that can speak to us on an unconscious level and stay with us. Our lives, whether we're aware of it or not, have their own soundtrack. How many times have you heard an old favourite song for the first time in years and been instantly transported back in your memories to the places, people and emotions tied to it? And we're always adding to our life's soundtrack, sometimes discovering songs that seem to express something we perhaps haven't got the words for, or didn't even realise we needed to express before As Hans Christian Andersen once said, ‘where words fail, music speaks’. There is real power when the poetry of lyrics is complimented by a melody and somehow it can speak to us more deeply that way and be almost therapeutic in emotional terms.
I'm definitely stating the obvious by saying that music always has an integral role in our services. The communal hymn singing cements our sense of unity as our voices (however tentative we may be on occasions) combine as one. Given that the hymns are usually carefully chosen to fit with the theme and message of the service, joining in the singing also gives us a sense of participation and (dare I say?) affirmation of that. Although there is that old joke that Unitarian hymn singing is normally quite distracted because we're usually scanning the words ahead to see whether we agree with them! The musical offering that accompanies the time for reflection can help to deepen that reflective state and have a calming, healing effect for those who may need to quiet their mind for a time. We also have the Chalice Singers and, speaking personally as a member of this choir, the rehearsals and contributions to the service are always a joyful experience.
We are also very lucky that St Mark's has wonderful acoustics that make it a popular venue for musical performances, both during and outside of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Providing these opportunities to simply appreciate music for its own sake, or as another form of escape from the stresses of daily living, may be just as important as the what we have in the spiritual setting of our services. Whether in a spiritual or entertainment setting, it's safe to say that music is very much part of the fabric of our church and the beloved community within.