Monday, June 2, 2008
Singing at Taize, Part 2
I've added some photos now that I have reliable internet access with my computer. Attached to this post is the Taize Church of the Reconciliation.
My final evening in Taize was special for two reasons. During one of the services two of the German women noticed that I sing bass and Spanish. I explained that I am an American, but that Spanish is my second language. They invited me to join them that evening to continue to sing Taize songs after the Taize brothers left.
To understand their plan you need to understand a little bit more about Taize songs and worship. Taize songs are generally repetitive chants with no end. You keep singing them over and over again until the song leader decides to sing amen or just stop. You can see this as a lack of artistry if you like, but I think there is something else at work here. I think it is a way to keep the prayer going--since Taize songs are prayers--it is moving us towards praying without ceasing.
The worship services work in a similar way. They do not end! There is no benediction. At some point, the majority of the brothers get up and leave the room, leaving an instrumentalist and a vocalist to lead a couple of songs. And then those two leave as well, leaving the room with whoever happens to still be there. Every other night I was there the group would sing one or at most two songs. But without the brothers to sing the harmonies, the music would peter out.
Again I think the lack of a benediction is pointing to the idea of praying without ceasing. We take our prayers and songs into our hearts during the rest of the day. And the experience of worship at Taize really does make a big difference in your life the rest of the time too. The whole time does feel like a time of worship.
So anyway these two German women told me that during the summer and holidays the people at Taize keep singing for hours after the brothers leave. So they invited another German they knew who sang tenor and the four of us sat close to each other as the service was starting to wind down. Then when there was no song number announced on the LED board, one of the women called out a number in German and we would go to it. I noticed that a lot of the songs were German and finally started requesting some English ones too. We kept singing for perhaps 1 to 2 hours after a lot of people had left. Maybe 20 people stayed with us. We was a great experience of worship and singing. Perhaps a fourth of the songs were new to me and so that took some concentration and at times guessing the notes. But it went well. As Germans would say, das war toll!
The other special thing about this final night was that on Friday night they always bring out the icon of the cross and invite you to kneel at it, symbolically laying down your burdens at Jesus' feet. I certainly had burdens to lay down and so I went to the cross. About six people gather around it at a time and while everyone else keeps singing those at the cross are absolutely silent. It was such a holy silence. I felt myself suspended between heaven and earth. Perhaps that is a good way to describe Taize.