Many of my conversations start off – or end up – with the subject of food. I sometimes think that I could base an entire successful Chancel Choir rehearsal on metaphors involving food – its preparation and consumption. After these 365 days of my music ministry here at River Road Church, I have a sneaking suspicion that food plays a significant role in the overall ministry of this congregation. I might even be tempted to add a corollary to the words of St. Augustine, who said, “The one who sings well, prays twice.” How about “The one who cooks well, prays thrice!”? My mother, although of German descent, resembled many of our Italian neighbors in Brooklyn, always asking a guest, upon entering our home, whether he or she was hungry. Mom was always ready to feed someone – and I had a quite a few hungry high school buddies who eagerly awaited opportunities to step over the Gallagher threshold. For Mom, food was love – at least, it was a sizable portion of the overall formula for love.
Food is something that many of us take for granted. We, Americans, are actually unique in the world in this regard. Many cultures continue to gather their food painstakingly or forage for it cleverly. Preparation is their next time-consuming chore. Food does not come easily. Perhaps some of you will remember the incident with a large multi-national corporation which stood to make enormous profits on the sale of its powdered infant formula in third-world nations. Unfortunately, many of the families using this instant miracle were unable to obtain clean water to reconstitute this product. The use of contaminated water resulted in illness and death. Although many Americans boycotted the other foods that this large corporation distributed (greatly reducing hot chocolate and chocolate milk consumption), most of us were so accustomed to our clean-water infrastructure that it never occurred to us that someone else in the world did not have the convenience to “mix-and-stir.” Eventually, this crisis was resolved through the development of cleaner water supplies and more reliance on the natural and traditional method of nourishment in those countries. We are so fortunate (I suppose); even the loving and attentive preparation of a normal meal is an action that we are easily able to forego if we are in a hurry. Even fast food, though, is the result of a certain type of preparedness – people behind the scenes have spent time and effort “getting ready” for us to proceed through the drive-thru.
All of this makes me think about “getting ready.” Preparing music for others’ consumption (like planning a menu) requires foraging, thoughtful planning, and loving preparation. Like a meal, it is consumed with appreciation and gratitude. Sometimes there are new items on the musical menu, and at other times we embrace comfort food. Ultimately, the goal is a certain type of nourishment, mostly preceded by lengthy and thoughtful preparation. Welcome to a new season of music at River Road – I’m off to forage and plan menus!