Sunday, June 30, 2019


Electronic devices such as tablets and smart phones have created a world where people consume self-chosen content while tethered to ear buds. Families don’t watch television together as much anymore. A long car ride doesn’t necessarily mean singing along to the car radio. We can live and travel in our own separate bubbles with our own individually curated playlists and watch lists.

Live music is a shared experience. We partake together. There is just nothing in this world like a live concert experience. Not only for the music, but for the human connection, the power in communal listening.

At Merriweather Post Pavilion last evening the joy of that shared experience was evident during the first concert of Darin Atwater’s Soulful Symphony.

“Symphonic Music isn’t dead,” Mr. Atwater stated. “It just needs to be resurrected.”

There was something almost church-like in the air as the orchestra and vocalists moved through a program filled with audience favorites and a few vibrant art pieces from Soulful Symphony’s repertoire. It was a performance that invited engagement and response. Audience members called out, sang along, clapped, swayed, even stood up to dance.

Over the past few years I have learned how Quakers believe in the holiness and power of shared silence. It isn’t simply the silence that’s important, it’s the corporate nature of Meeting for Worship. Last night’s Merriweather concert spoke to me in a similar way: the holiness of shared music, the power of experiencing that music together.

If the power generated by last night’s performance could be bottled, we’d be able to light up Columbia for quite some time. The expression “taking me to church” comes to mind. Urban Dictionary suggests it is synonymous with another expression, “giving me life.”

I believe music has the power to give us life. And I believe that sharing music together is sharing that life, valuing the communal nature of the musical experience.

Soulful Symphony has two more concerts this summer if you’d like to share some music with your friends. And a lot of friends you haven’t met yet. In deeply divided times, places we can joyfully experience shared connection are holy indeed.

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