Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

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Music and Relgion

This post was inspired by a tangent on zanda_myrande's pages, which did not need to be further cluttered up with my nostalgia.

As a musician raised as a practicing Jew and avid choir member, I was steeped in the concept of most religious music being in a minor key. I sang in Hebrew, and while I never gained fluency in the language, the cantor was thorough about making sure we knew what each word of each song/prayer meant. I mention this because I know some folks who know the sounds but not the meaning, whether it be Hebrew or Latin.

I went to a public school, and was not in chorus, mostly because I played trumpet in the band, which was at the same time as chorus, as if they were separate religions. Unfortunately, this made me think for a long time that my singing was just something I did at Temple, and my real music was with the band.

But I digress. Since I went to a public school in suburban NY, every concert was just before school break, which meant Easter tunes at spring break and Christmas tunes at winter break. End of the school year was all secular. We also played Jewish tunes, mostly thanks to my mother, who helped organize the PTA, which had a large percentage of Jewish members, and lobbied the school board - or maybe just the local administrator - to represent all religions in the concerts which were represented at school. At the time this meant Js and Cs. There were no Muslims or Hindus or Pastafarians - there well may be now.

Long story longer, playing Easter and Christmas tunes in the band was always uncomfortable for me. We chose the popular ones, the ones everyone knows the words to. And though I was only playing the music, the lyrics would be in my head. I had mixed feelings about the Jewish songs, because although it was fun to actually know a tune some of the other band members didn't, a school concert was not the place to be playing them.

I said all of that to tell you this story:
Many moons ago I worked for HP, my job was to support recipients of grants. I worked for six very high-powered research scientists, and one of them was from Mainland China. He was the audio expert, very proud of his new car with Infinity speakers and a high-end cassette player. He popped a tape into the machine just as we pulled out of the parking lot and wanted me to listen to this beautiful music. He was in love with the music, and it was a thrill for him to hear it played with such good fidelity.

It was beautiful. The audio was first rate. The orchestra excellent. When it was over, he raved about what great music it was, and I was at a loss how to reply. The tune was Ave Maria. It was quite a WTF, because he was not Christian, and he had no idea this was religious music. I could not get the words out of my head, even though this was an instrumental.

There is some irony here, because the reason I knew the words is my mother loved Nelson Eddy's voice, and it was on both an LP and a 78 of his which she played from time to time.
Tags: music, nostalgia, religion

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