The Relational Harmony of Six

Ludwig von Beethoven wrote: “Music is the mediator between the spiritual and sensual life.” 

The harmony of music is always relational, as are the proportions of the labyrinth. My ears are still ringing with the close harmonies of our Labyrinth as Sanctuary evening with Songmen Six on Friday March 18th.

The Songmen Six come together in their love of making music to form an a cappella group of young men. They are all current members of the Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa Choir of Men and Boys. Michael Carty, Nicolas Piper, Jaime McLean, Andrew Robar, David Houston and Andrew Day are a very talented and dedicated group of singers having formed as a group a little less than a year ago. The sextet performs an eclectic mix of both ancient sacred music and contemporary pop as well as their own compositions. Nicolas Piper premiered a most hauntingly beautiful Lenten piece he wrote and scored for the ensemble.

It was interesting to hear how the Songmen were able to blend the various pieces they sang. Their repertoire was circuitous and very much in the spirit of the labyrinth. The music was for the most part sombre, plaintive and slow, and it set the pace for the walkers. I wanted to listen while walking and so took the opportunity towards the end of the evening to walk the labyrinth myself. I don’t alway have an opportunity to walk the labyrinth when we are hosting and facilitating. I am often struck by how profound the experience of listening is while walking the labyrinth. It’s as if the sound is somehow amplified. This evening the Songmen Six were singing prayers of peace to God for forgiveness, some taken from the evening prayer Service of Compline, others were Lenten meditations. It seems I can only write of my own experience and would say after attending years of services at the Cathedral that this evening there seemed to be a pipeline directly from my ears to my heart. Not always, but at moments my discursive brain was bypassed and the possibility of the message became real, as if a direct invitation was received to step into a new reality. I’ll call it profound listening. The fact that it was delivered with close and complex harmonies in the clear acoustics of the hall helped tremendously.

I do wonder how others experienced the evening. I did noticed some tears . Perhaps not so much tears of regret but possibly just being overwhelmed by the beauty of both message and medium.

The evening was seeded with a quote from Albert Einstein and I found it became a kind of filter for the perception of my experience.

 “A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.”  Albert Einstein, 1954

It certainly rang true when I watched how closely the singers worked together and how their individual voices were simultaneously undifferentiated and individual, separate yet blended to create the whole effect. In all it was a gratifying evening and went a long way to creating reassurance of the promise of peace in our time.

The art tables were busy. However I didn’t see any of the things people were making but my husband came home with half a dozen water colours that were pretty impressive. It’s always interesting to see what happens in the setting of the labyrinth. I would like to believe it opens doors to creativity, where we can remove our blinders of fear and self criticism and just be

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