Saturday, October 13, 2012

Friday Night Drums

Last night, I helped my spouse who was invited to a Lutheran church to lead their youth in a drumming workshop.  The night had its roots in a workshop that we helped with back in September of 2009; see this post for more on that experience.

I've said before how grateful that I am that we have such a wide variety of percussion instruments (well, instruments of all kinds):  2 djembes, a doumbek, several shakers, and several small drums.  We borrowed some drums and a tambourine from our church, and we were set.  My spouse brought his violin and an electric keyboard and showed how even a non-percussion instrument could be used in a more rhythmic way.

The church had a HUGE group of children, about 40, all gathered on a Friday night.  I asked if they all show up on Sunday morning.  The pastor said only about 5 of them do, but she said, "Church doesn't just happen on Sunday morning."  Indeed.

My spouse and I were the only white folks there, but we were welcomed warmly.  The children were all fascinated by the drumming.  My spouse taught them a smidge of music theory, mainly just a tiny bit about time signatures.  But mostly, they wanted to bang on drums.  I was glad that we had almost enough for everyone; no one sat too long without an instrument to experience.

My spouse also stressed that good percussion instruments are all around us.  He showed the kids how to play spoons, and he brought some empty containers to compare how they sound to regular drums.  Yogurt tub vs. djembe--which is better?

He talked about how drums are made by indigenous populations.  We have one small drum that is covered by a hairy skin (usually real skins used in drumming are scraped clean).  Some of the children refused to touch it ("A goat?  That was a real, live goat??!!"), while others couldn't wait.  He talked a bit about Latin rhythms and African traditions.

And then, we ended by singing.  My spouse planned to do more with "We are Marching in the Light of God"; after all, it's can be sung in many languages all at the same time, it can be sung in a round, it can have people sing soaring bits behind the main song.

But the pastor and I simply sang it through, in English, several times, along with my spouse (and likely some of the parents who watched the whole workshop), and the kids drummed.  It was the highlight of my week, at least my week after my sister and nephew left.

As we sang, I felt my voice soar, which was amazing, since only recently have I started singing without caring what I sound like.  It's not a song that I've sung often (unlike, say, Christmas music), and yet, I felt like I was hitting all the notes.  I loved singing with the pastor--her voice and my voice worked well together.

I got the feeling that I only rarely get when I'm singing:  my rib cage expanded, and I felt like I could feel my body in terms of space and cavity and sound echoing against the bones.  That doesn't sound very pleasant, but it was incredible.  It reminded me of the feeling I get when I sing in the stairwell at work.

After the workshop, my spouse stayed to work with some of the kids who were more interested in the drum kit than in the hand drums.  I carried drums to the car and watched the kids play with hula hoops and chase each other around the church grounds and work on liturgical dance.

And then we drove home.  I sang all the way home.  I offered prayers for this church that's so different than mine, much more of an inner city church surrounded by urban blight.  I will continue to pray for these children, who are so enthusiastic, but who have so many obstacles to overcome.

This post is already quite long, so I'll save my thoughts on drumming as spiritual practice for a later post, and my thoughts about children and their fragile place in the world for yet a different post.  I may write later at more length about the idea that the Holy Spirit is calling us to something with this experience; my spouse has been finding fairly cheap instruments for sale on Craig's List and eBay, and the kids were SO enthusiastic yesterday.  I have this vision of music ministry of a different sort, a music ministry that takes instruments and song to children of all sorts.

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