Living Harmoniously

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May 31, 2012
Terrell and Janna Wiebe |

I’ll admit it – I am a huge choir nerd. I absolutely love choir concerts and choral music in general.

I don’t know how I came to be this way. I mean, I have always loved a large variety of music, thanks to my father’s eclectic music tastes (Southern gospel, accapella, 50s-70s rock, to name a few) and my experience growing up in the church. But something has always strongly drawn me repeatedly to choral music – to the interesting and sometimes inconceivable SATB arrangements of pop songs, folk songs, and African spirituals.

Choral music can be about anything – love, God, nature, even just nonsense sounds or intricately layered chords. One time I heard a men’s choir from Finland sing a song that was supposed to represent what the Northern Lights sounded like. Extraordinary! I closed my eyes and could see one of the skies most miraculous wonders simply by listening. I love that about choral music.

I love the challenge of choral music. I love to sing but have never felt so satisfied or found so much joy in singing as I have in a choral setting. I have sung in choirs since I was in grade 8 or 9 in a variety of settings, and have always enjoyed the challenge of singing my part strong, while not making my voice stand out. Over-emphasizing a sharp “t” at the end of a word while trying to blend my voice into the rest of the second altos. Allowing your conductor to take you beyond yourself and be left shaking with them, sometimes crying, by the electric outcome of the performance.

[I do have to give a shout-out here to Dr. Janet Brenneman, Assistant Professor of Music at CMU, who pushed me more than anyone ever has in my musical abilities. She made me want to sing by best for her; she made me want to be the best I could be, and completely solidified my love of choral music, and for that I am forever grateful! Choral music has never been better than it was with you, Janet!]

On my final choir tour with the CMU Singers in 2009, I remember one particular warm-up near the end of tour. While I was looking around the circle of singers during warm-up, I looked fondly on the faces of people I had grown to care about a lot. These were people different from each other, from different backgrounds and different histories and faith stories that were not all friends and only saw each other in choir.

But when we sang, none of that mattered. When we sang, we all worked together to create a unified sound. What mattered was creating music and making ourselves to come together in perfect harmony (play on words intended).

We weren’t always going to get along. We weren’t all going to be best friends. But even despite our different backgrounds, heritages, and opinions, we were a group that was working together to create something beautiful and pleasing to God.

This, to me, is a striking metaphor for the church.

It’s what I hope the church can be - a body that uses their gifts together for good, and pushes their differences behind them to unite and create something pleasing to God. I was struck by this metaphor again last spring in Mississippi, where I served for a week with MDS. Our church members worked alongside New Order Amish from Pennsylvania and Martin Mennonites from Ontario.

I made dear friends with girls who worked in long dresses and wore head coverings, while I wore shorts and t-shirts. We saw past and even respected each other’s differences and worked together to build houses and the Kingdom of God.

What experiences have you had working with those whose faith has seemed different that yours? Was it easy to look past your differences? Or was it difficult to make heavenly music?

-Janna

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