I’m so comfortable in my little silo, aren’t you? I go through my days, work, visit with friends and colleagues, and mostly I encounter people much like myself. But there are many people ‘out there’ who think and vote differently, and I want to know them better. We each live in our silos and, unless we make the effort to interact with those who choose to think or act differently, we form assumptions about the other, some of which are false and based on what we see in the increasingly biased media. How can we find ways to interact with many different people and form friendships in a safe space?
One way is through singing.
This story begins with 9-11, a soul-shattering event that pushed our fear of The Other to great new heights. The 2002 Winter Olympic Games were scheduled to take place in Salt Lake City. Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints felt a pressing need to offset the mistrust, and particularly the Islamophobia, resulting from the 9-11 event by creating an Interfaith Round Table. This group included leaders from all local faith communities, and has continued to work together since then.
Every few years there is a gathering of people of all faiths called the Parliament of World Religions. The event moves around the globe, and in 2015 was scheduled for Salt Lake City. At that time Mary Lou Prince (whom we featured in this publication last year as a local musician/composer) and her wife, Reverend Patty Willis, were serving at a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Salt Lake City, and were members of the Interfaith Round Table. Mary Lou had reached out to an LDS ward music director who shared an interest in bridging the gap between faith communities, and together they formed an interfaith choir. The theme for that year’s Parliament was the earth, and Mary Lou and Patty wrote a song cycle called Songs of the Earth, which the choir then performed, with added voices from visiting singers. This gathering was attended by over 10,000 people from around the world.
Mary Lou and Patty now serve the Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation and, with LDS Prescott Stake Music Director Juli Dalton, Trinity Presbyterian Church Music Director Kellie Walker Hart,z and Rabbi Susan Schanerman of Temple B’rith Shalom, have formed our own local interfaith choir. It took some time, and Covid made it especially hard for singers to gather, but singers of several different faith traditions now meets regularly as the Quad-Cities Interfaith Choir.
I joined a few weeks ago and am happy to be part of this multifaceted group. Mary Lou and Patty have written another song cycle called Women of Courage. Each song relates to a woman who endured hardship, misogyny and sometimes violence to go on and use her heart and voice for justice. There are songs about Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman, Etty Hillesum and others. Mary Lou writes lovely and very singable music. Patty’s lyrics are uplifting and universally acceptable for people of all faiths. The choir not only sings music by these two, we are lucky to have them here and composing such perfectly suited music for our interfaith group.
The Quad-Cities Interfaith Choir will be performing Women of Courage at the upcoming Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in mid-August. In preparation for that we will be singing the cycle here in Prescott on August 5 at 7pm at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 630 Park Avenue in Prescott.
Choir practice takes place on the first Saturday of every month from 12:30-2pm at Trinity. All voices of all faiths are welcome. SATB! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.