Fiona Vidal-White is a musician, Christian educator, and liturgist currently serving at Church of Our Savior in Arlington, MA. She is the author of the hymnal My Heart Sings Out and its companion leader’s guide, designed as a musical resource for all-age worship. Her passions include the welcome and formation of all God’s people, especially children and teens, through teaching and learning, hands-on in-reach, and outreach and liturgy and music.
I certainly didn’t know the term then, but it was paperless music that drew me into both singing as a youth choir member, working with children and church music, and finally creating a hymnal of my own that focused on intergenerational singing. I was a teen when my father, a vicar in the UK, purchased Sound of Living Waters to go in our pews alongside Hymns Ancient and Modern, and us choir kids were so thrilled. We sang Seek ye First, and I Will Sing a Song unto the Lord, We See the Lord, and Let All That is Within Me Cry Holy, as well as many of the hymns. As we developed a repertoire, we were allowed to choose the communion songs “on the fly”, which we really enjoyed.
What makes paperless music so attractive to children and youth? Many of the same things that make it attractive to adults. While we don’t want to be glued to the page, our youngest children cannot read, and those a little older still find it hard to read and sing at the same time. Children often memorise both words and music quicker than adults do - many of them are singing regularly in school, or in church or youth choirs, and are used to learning something new every day. Children have less fear of being thought foolish, and enjoy being loud and exuberant.
How might children and youth benefit from MMC’s learning methods? Children would far rather get straight into singing than listen to a lot of explanatory talk. Rather than being afraid of a challenge such as learning the piece quicker than adults, or singing in a round, or singing complex rhythms, they rise to it.
But let’s dive in a little deeper. At the heart of Music that Makes Community is the desire to invite every person into the room, and give them the space to learn, to comment on the learning practice, and to potentially lead. This is a really powerful message for young people, who do not often find themselves in this kind of open and equal space. In worship or in other contexts, young people often model good practice for adults with their attention, their musical facility, their willingness to lead, and their enthusiasm, and adults are led to reflect on the skills and passions that young people have, and are sometimes denied an opportunity to express them.
We'll post Part II of Fiona's reflection soon. Stay tuned!