For me, singing is just what I do. There is nothing abnormal or anything about it that brings me any level of fear or dread. However, in my travels as a choir director and workshop facilitator across the planet and in my many visits to Bahá’í communities and churches I have found a general reticence in people when it comes to singing. That’s something that is reserved for the choir…the professional. Now I am not talking about soloing in front of hundreds of people inCarnegie Hall. I am referring to a few people sitting in a familiar room surrounded by familiar faces and being asked to join in singing a familiar song of praise in a very relaxed community setting i.e. no pressure. In many instances, I have seen the mightiest lion reduced to a purring pussy cat, the most charismatic turned to a mumbling mess, and the brightest light in the room muted in a matter of moments when asked one simple request: “Please, won’t you all join me in singing….” It almost seems that that one teacher…you know the one, Ms. So and So, who put little Johnny in the back row of chorus, is haunting the majority of people in our communities. How many times have I heard this story over and over. Why is this?
I feel that the reason we find this fear of expression in our midst is not because of our ability or how we sing. I truly believe that if you can speak you can sing. As a matter of fact, I have worked with people all my life in community settings and inevitably we have been able to move to a concert level performance in less than a 3 day period (www.ericdozier.com/workshops). That’s what I do. Everyone has a song in them. What I have observed over the years, however, is that when I do a workshop, it is not the song that I am trying to uncover in a person or group. It is their joy, heart, and happiness that we are collectively trying to release in that moment in time. Release those spiritual emotions and the song will follow. For true joy knows no fear. Love has no limitation. And true happiness is a roaring river of life for a community of friends.
So in essence, we do not sing just to make sounds, or money, or win grammy’s and be admired. We sing because “all art is a gift of the Holy Spirit.” We sing because “melodies bring animation and happiness to the world of humanity(1).” We sing because God “has made music as a ladder for your souls”…a means whereby our communities may be “lifted up unto the realm on high.(2)”
Bahá’u'lláh lovingly says to us,
“Let your joy be the joy born of My Most Great Name, a Name that bringeth rapture to the heart, and filleth with ecstasy the minds of all who have drawn nigh unto God(3).” and thus says the Psalmist…
“O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvelous things…Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.(4)
If this truly is the source of our joy, the question posed in the title of this post has now become all but irrelevant. Even as I was writing my eyes were turned to the more pressing dimension of the issue at hand which is: Knowing what we know and believing what we believe…
How can we not sing?
1. Abdu’l-Baha, cited in The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith, comp. The Research Department of the Universal House of Justice [Thornhill: Baha'i Canada Publications, 1999] no. 23, pp. 10-11
2. Baha’u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 39
4. Psalms 98, King James Version