Friday, March 05, 2010

Proclamation and Manifestation

Last Saturday night, musicians from Brown County, Indiana, banded together and did a benefit concert for Doctors Without Borders. It was a delightful evening at the Brown County Library, and about 200 people jammed into the library's meeting room to watch ten local acts--eleven counting young Sara Maria, actress and mandolin artist.

Kara Barnard, owner of Weed Patch Music Company and one of the people on my "when I grow up I want to be like her" list, carried the emcee duties for the evening. As she introduced each act, including her own beautiful three song set, she described how she knew each person. She talked about their connection to the community. Some she knew from the Daily Grind, a local coffee shop.

As the evening wore on and as I had a chance to reflect, I realized that the evening was not so much about the performances or the performers. It was about that community of artists, those creative musicians who chose to live, perform and work in and around that little hamlet of Nashville.

Kara remarked a couple of times during the evening about how quickly each and every performer said yes when asked if they would be part of the concert. It was a stellar example of a community within a community, supporting one another because one of them had an idea about a way to do some good for something bigger than themselves.

Most people and many artists, I think, long for that kind of connection. These few months, I've been giving a bit of time to a class on conflict and resolution at Christian Theological Seminary here in Indianapolis. The topic will certainly benefit the work I do in ministry, but the way the class has spoken into other areas of life has been a most pleasant surprise.

This week, in talking about some of the group dynamics that are present in conflict, Dr. Lyon mentioned a spirituality of proclamation and a spirituality of manifestation. Public performance carries the elements of proclamation. The performer speaks, sings and plays a word or message into the assembled audience. The spirituality of proclamation has a recognition of being out of joint with things as they should be. Hence, we have a substantial volume of music of protest.

However, a spirituality of manifestation expresses the desire to be at one with the fundamental nature of things as they are. It carries with it a longing for community. One can find musical manifestation just the same as one can create musical proclamation.

Around the country, artisans of old-time, folk and bluegrass music will gather for competitions. A national competition is held at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. Closer to home, the Indiana Picking and Fiddling contest is held in Princeton, Indiana, on Labor Day weekend.

This year I'm planning to make my first foray into these contests, especially now that I've come to realize that these events are more about the community than they are about the contest. Competitions afford the opportunity to gather with people who do what you do, who play and love the same music, who admire the same legendary players, as you do. Being able to say you were a finalist, or that you finished first, second or third is just gravy.

The music was fabulous at the Brown County Library last Saturday, but the connection, the manifestation of that community of artists, is what made it a special evening.

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