‘Tis the season for…musical diversity! One question that has been asked a few times over the past couple of years is, “Why isn’t there more Christmas music at the UUFC on Sunday mornings?” An explanation will be given of how the UUFC welcomes a wide range of beliefs so over the years we have tried to reflect the music from a variety of cultures and spiritual backgrounds, including Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, HumanLight, etc. This is usually followed by “Yes…but I want Christmas music…and it’s not just me. I’m just letting you know what people want” Believe me, when there are complaints or requests about the music, people are not shy about letting us know! Examples of feedback we have received, often about the same music:
- “It’s too Christian.”
- “It’s not Christian enough.”
- “The lyrics aren’t very PC.
- “Why can’t we honor tradition and sing the familiar lyrics?”
- “I had a traumatic past with my first church home and reminders of that experience are painful to me.”
- “I don’t miss my church roots…but I miss the sense of ritual and its traditional music.”
- “Why don’t we sing more than one Latin/German verse of certain carols? Shouldn’t we be authentic?”
- “Why do we sing one verse of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Silent Night’ in a language that I don’t know?”
Clearly, there are no solutions that will please everyone. The music ministry’s goal for the holiday season has been to celebrate over the years with music that reflects a wide variety of cultures and beliefs, so that everyone can enjoy the music at some point. It is important to bear the following in mind:
- Unitarian Universalism is not primarily a Christian church. In addition to Christianity, Unitarian Universalists’ beliefs can range from atheism, agnosticism, pantheism, deism, Judaism, Islam, neopaganism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Humanism, just to name a few.
- It is especially important during this day and age to not align ourselves with those who insist Christmas is the only holiday that matters and that any greeting other than “Merry Christmas” is offensive. We can love Christmas music…and we can also appreciate that music from other cultures/belief systems that mean as much to someone else as Christmas might mean to us.
And if you need some more Christmas music in your life, come and join us at the UUFC at 4 PM today for our 6th Annual traditional Christmas Carol Sing-Along, complete with decorations, cookies, and cider!
Today’s music covered both Jewish and Christian traditions, as the first service focused upon Hannukah and the second service was centered around RE’s Mummers Play, a British tradition that is often performed during the Christmas season. The 9:30 service began with a piano rendition of the three Hanukkah blessings that are sung before the lighting of the menorah. The ritual is so precise that everything from the order that the candles are lit to which blessings are chanted on which night are all predetermined.
The blessings state:
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this season.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who hallows us with mitzvot, commanding us to kindle the Hanukkah lights.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who performed wonderous deeds for our ancestors in days of old at this season.
Another traditional Hanukkah piece, the Ma’oz Tsur (Rock of Ages), made an appearance during the first service; the Ma’oz Tzur is a Hebrew liturgical poem which retells the history of the Jews and celebrates their deliverance from their enemies. The most well-known tune for the Ma’oz Tzur is an old folk song melody, but there is also a secondary melody that is often employed for the Ma’oz Tzur, and this is what I selected for today’s service. While it sets the same text as the “popular” Ma’oz Tzur, the feel of this melody is quite different – minor instead of major, for starters – and I felt that it had more of a sense of gravitas needed for a moment for meditation.
To close the first service, what could be a more grandiose postlude than “See the Conqu’ring Hero?” from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus. While many of you might know this as the Christian hymn “Thine Be the Glory”, this tune really belonged to the Jewish faith first. Not only is Judas Maccabaeus an oratorio that tells the story of the persecution and eventual victory of the Jewish people against the 160 B.C. Seleucid Empire, but this tune is frequently used for the Jewish hymn En Kelohenu during the Hanukkah season.
Before the second service began, I caught a glimpse of the children “backstage”, preparing for the delightful Mummers Play. Their energy and sweet joy was infectious and I decided that while I would play the same offertory in honor of Hanukkah, some selections from Vince Guaraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” would help set mood for their performance. Today’s prelude and postlude are below.