This week I held my first grandchild, little Naomi, in my arms for the first time. As I wept tears of joy, I sang a song of thanks to our Heavenly Father for His beautiful creation. Robin and I are so proud of our son Isaac and his lovely wife Chuana. And they of course are thrilled, if very tired, to be parents.
Last week as I sang with my siblings around the piano for the first time in 9 years, along with other family members and friends, it was an incredibly special moment too. We’d come together from various countries for our nephew’s wedding.
And casting my mind back to when my father died, I remember how we sang a hymn I had always loved, but never knew before that time that it was Dad’s favourite too.
If you think about the special transitions in life: birth, marriage and death, music takes a special place to help us express our emotions and the deepest feelings we have, whatever they may be.
Have you ever noticed that some things can be said in a song that you wouldn’t say without the music? This could apply to words of love, but I have also heard negative lyrics in a song that would come across very differently if spoken directly to someone’s face without the music.
When I was studying ethnomusicology it came up that there was a culture where music was used to express displeasure about a particular sin done in the community, but sung so that the harshness of the words were softened in a way through the music used to convey the message.
Songs are used around the world in a huge variety of styles to express delight or displeasure, to teach and inform, to rebuke or challenge the status quo in a community.
All this to say there is power in song that we often underestimate. I have noticed that some of my young pianists are reluctant to sing along to their piano pieces at first. But it is so good for their development as a musician that I keep encouraging them to get in the habit of it. Even in a simple first year piece I see a huge difference in the way the notes are played when they sing them. The music immediately goes from becoming a collection of notes to becoming a melody and the words of the song help to make that link. Singing helps you play the piece a little more from your heart. Besides, singing releases endorphins, so it will lift your mood as well.
Whatever instrument you are playing this week, can I encourage you to sing along with it too in some way regardless of whether you think you can or not. Okay, that’s tricky for wind instruments, but a person playing a wind instrument will obviously play with some of the sensations of singing anyway. Even so, singing a phrase then playing it may still make it flow better. Let me know if you notice the difference.
When you are helping your child with their piano practice, come alongside and sing along with the lyrics if there are some. It will bring the music to life and be part of bonding with your child too. Their piano playing becomes less of a task to get done and more of a wonderful thing to do together. (I’d love to hear from you if you try this and notice the difference in some way.)
This is such a big subject that I hope to cover it more in future blogs. But for now, it’s a time to sing! And I look forward to the day when little Naomi and I will sing together.