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Devotion: We Are One

Soprano, Kate Tripoli, shared this devotion about the unbelievable, yet scientifically proven, effects of singing at rehearsal on October 8, 2013.
 
Chances are that this summer you read about a recently published study on the biological effects of choral singing. I know a lot of us were sharing it on Facebook, and at the time, I said, "I wonder who will be the first person to use this in a devotion." Turns out, it's me. The following excerpts are courtesy of NPR.

Researchers of the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden recently studied the heart rates of high school choir members as they joined their voices. Their findings, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, confirm that choir music has calming effects on the heart — especially when sung in unison. Using pulse monitors attached to the singers' ears, the researchers measured the changes in the choir members' heart rates as they navigated the intricate harmonies of a Swedish hymn. When the choir began to sing, their heart rates slowed down. But what really struck the researchers was that it took almost no time at all for the singers' heart rates to become synchronized. The readout from the pulse monitors starts as a jumble of jagged lines, but quickly becomes a series of uniform peaks. The heart rates fall into a shared rhythm guided by the song's tempo. Musicologist Bjorn Vickhoff, who led the project, wondered how this knowledge might be used to create more cohesive group dynamic in a classroom setting or in the workplace. "When I was young, every day started with a teacher sitting down at an old organ to sing a hymn," Vickhoff said. "Wasn't that a good idea — to get the class to think, 'We are one, and we are going to work together today.' "

The findings of this study suggest two things to me, two gifts that we get to experience in NLC. One, it confirms the power that music has to draw us as individuals more fully into the present moment. That's something that a lot of us, and maybe all of us, have felt at some point. Even when we are singing with our fullest force and energy, the busy parts of our minds have become still, no longer constantly trying to juggle a thousand responsibilities, appointments, and passwords, but simply present in our task of singing. Speaking as someone who has trouble quieting her own mind, I am truly grateful that I have this opportunity built into my week to get a little bit of inner peace.
 
The other gift we receive, besides the power that music works in us as individuals, is the way it shapes our community. On Sunday at the Choral Showcase, Matthew Culloton made a point of saying that the members of the Singers are not just fine musicians but also a great group of human beings, and I know we feel the same way about our NLC, and we love spending time together. What I had not considered before is that our community is not only shaped by our social time, but that our true connection is forged in our singing itself. David Cherwien describes it with this swirling, give-and-take motion and talks about the spirit that flows between us when we are singing together -- not just at the same time, but truly together. When we sing, our hearts actually beat as one. That's not just a poetic expression, it's a scientific reality and a spiritual mystery that we get to experience every week with the people on our right and left, behind and before, and even all the way on the other side of the room.
 
So tonight, and for the rest of this All Saints preparation season, and for the rest of this year, I encourage you to allow yourself to really enjoy the experience of being fully present in the music and with each other. Take the occasional look around the room at the faces of your fellow singers while they are singing, and notice your own heartbeat, and think, "We are one, and we are going to work together today."
 
The Lord be with you.
 
God, you bring all things to life and through life, and you have brought us to this present moment.
Thank you for the gift of unity through music and your Spirit.
In Jesus name, Amen.