This week John Foley convened his "composers' forum" at Mercy Center in St. Louis. Every year for the last 15 or so, there's an open invitation for published composers to meet to relax, chat, pray, network, and learn from noted experts and one another about topics important to all of us. This made me recall that it was at this very conference about five years ago that Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, spoke on Christian aesthetics. One of the perceptions of artists that we investigated was the popular figure of the tortured loner, the inspired recluse or visionary who has no need for others, but who relentlessly pursues his or her muse in an enforced aloofness, seeking the originality and clarity of vision at all costs. I came to see, we all did, if we hadn't considered it before, how useless such a perception is in the quest of Christian art, which is of its very nature communitarian, given as a gift by the Holy Spirit but directed toward the need of the whole body, for the life of the world.
|Terry and Gary at the Alamo, 2002|
And actually, that's a great relief. So, even though there have been dozens, no, hundreds or even thousands of people who have had an influence on my own life and writing, there are three fine people who I think of today to single out for their influence. You probably know them all.
|With Terry at the Bean, November 2011|
I met my wife, Terry Donohoo, longer ago than I am allowed to say publicly any more. Her extraordinary and unique singing always catches the listener by surprise. It is at once clear and rich, expressing new emotions and meanings in musical phrases that delight the ear time after time. No one fails to notice the clarity and expressiveness of her singing, and these bubble up from a constant heart and a loving, reflective soul. After so many years of hearing her sing my songs, really making them live in public performance, I am still thrilled by the sound of her voice.
|Tom and I, near Watch Hill, RI, September 2012|
|Wasting money and time |
with Gary at Wrigley Field, summer 2012.
I just started out to say that no one is a musical island, and that Christian artists aren't involved in an essentially isolated project. We are writing music out of a community experience that is thousands of years old, trying to find words and music here and now to praise a God who is also something like a community. We don't delude ourselves that we are creating in the sense that God does; rather, we share in God's creation, shaping ideas and sounds that pre-existed us. What is unique is the moment in which the community takes those words and songs and expresses their faith, but what is original is always the work of the divine artist whose Spirit is the inSpiration and life-breath that makes the song and the singing possible.
Terry, Tom, and Gary. Three fine people you ought to know, and whose names, among others, will come up again in these reveries, I'm sure.