I was privileged to be one of the musicians in the GA band at this year’s Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly. It was a really great experience for me, even though I didn’t really get to attend the GA. When we weren’t playing for a worship or gathering, we were rehearsing, so my experience of GA was quite a bit different this year than in the past.
GA is sort of a 4000-person leadership development program. Everything done has an air of excitement and excellence — the preachers are top-notch, the keynote speakers are fabulous, the workshops are cutting edge.
And (wait for it) the music is just outrageously good. From the pipe organ thundering out old-school hymns to the soul band at the service of the living tradition to Nick Page’s participatory musical prayers — it was just fabulous. And (wait for it) a huge proportion of the music was contemporary. What the people from average UU congregations (with about 100 people) experience is the best we have to offer, and that includes a heaping serving of modern, meaningful UU music and musicians.
I heard someone voice the hope that these representatives would go home to their congregations and say “that was WONDERFUL! We should try to do some of the stuff we experienced there!” And, I would add, I hope that some of them will go home and say “there sure is a lot of modern-sounding music that expressed our faith and values — we should start singing some of it!”
If you didn’t get to go to the GA, you can still experience a lot of it online. The UUA web site features video of all the worship, all the plenary sessions (no music to speak of there, I’m afraid), many the workshops, and all the keynote speakers. Here’s an idea: get your laptop, borrow a projector, and get together on Wednesday nights with others in your congregation and immerse yourself in the best UU worship you will ever experience.
Then, pick out a couple of those terrific songs and try singing them with your congregation. This is where UU music is going, if we follow the visionaries and leaders in our denomination.