“Like a Window to Your Soul,” For the Strength of Youth, Mar. 2021, 6–8.
Megan C., Ethan M., and Romy C. have something in common: They love reverent music. They love the way it lifts and inspires them, the way it makes them feel. And they love to see how it lifts and inspires others.
Megan, 18; Ethan, 19; and Romy, 17, also have something else in common: They all sing in their ward choir in Florida, USA. And recently the choir gave them an even greater opportunity to share their love for music by participating in an Interfaith Music Festival.
“Our community has an interfaith coalition that does a lot to bring people of different faiths together,” Ethan explains. For example, the group hosted a discussion around an Iftar dinner (the evening meal when Muslims end their daily fast during their holy month of Ramadan), organized a number of service projects such as preparing school backpacks for children in need, and held several potluck dinners, where people who didn’t know each other sat side by side at the same table and talked about foods, customs, and beliefs enjoyed in their cultures.
The coalition’s goal is, of course, to help people from different backgrounds to become friends.
“There’s a Turkish family that I always see at the interfaith dinners, and they run up to me and say, ‘We’re so happy to see you again!’” Romy says. “In a world where there’s so much persecution of religion and faith, it’s nice that we can all come together and just talk to each other.” During one of the service projects, “the ladies at another church were so sweet,” she says. “They didn’t care about anyone’s religion. They were just there to offer their help. It was refreshing.”
“We may believe different things,” Megan says, “but I’ve always respected other people’s beliefs and it’s been nice to connect with them in this setting where we all want to learn about each other.”
“Our church is one of the newer members of the coalition,” Ethan says. “So I was very appreciative of just how kind they were to us and how accepting they were. I know that in some places, people misunderstand the Church. So I’m always appreciative when people are able to accept each other’s differences and look for what we have in common.”
And one of the things all the faith groups have in common is music. The Interfaith Music Festival would be a great opportunity for believers to unite in praising God. The ward choir would be one of about half a dozen groups representing congregations throughout the city.
“There was a bell choir, a vocal duet, a large choir, a small choir, a flute-and-piano duet, and so forth,” Megan explains. “Every group was asked to do two numbers.”
Megan continues, “We wanted to make sure that what we sang would let people know that we believe in Jesus Christ and also that we believe in Heavenly Father. We wanted to create a feeling of worship.”
The choir decided on two numbers they had previously performed, “Great Things and Small Things,” by Steven Kapp Perry, and “Sacraments and Symbols,” by Janice Kapp Perry, Steven Kapp Perry, and Lynne Perry Christofferson.
“The first song is upbeat. It offers the assurance that through God, you can do anything, whether it’s relatively minor or very significant,” Ethan says. “The second song has a deep reverence. It’s almost like a chant, and it creates a real feeling of worship.”
As they prepared to sing, Ethan used a method he has used before. “I try to prioritize becoming immersed in the song,” he says. “I find that when I’m able to pay attention to the meaning of the song, I’m able to enjoy it better. Of course I make sure I can sing it properly, but I find that it’s easier for me to do that when I’m in tune with the message that it’s trying to convey. I like to put an emphasis on spiritual preparation.”
“We still had to sing in sacrament meeting and practice for other things, too,” Megan says. “But we knew the importance of the interfaith event, so we made sure the pieces were ready. We worked hard on them.”
For the second number, the 14-member choir shrunk down to a double quartet. “We would rehearse on Tuesdays, before Young Men and Young Women,” Megan says. “It made me think of the song for a whole week, for a whole month, really. I don’t usually do this, but I found the song on YouTube and kept playing it over and over. I wanted to improve. I wanted us to sing so well that we would touch other people.”
Ethan, Megan, and Romy agree that all the rehearsing had an added benefit. “When you repeat songs over and over,” Romy says, “the messages of the songs stay in your mind and in your heart.”
That presence in their minds and hearts was clearly evident as the choir members sang. “Both songs were just beautiful,” Romy says. “The audience got real quiet and everyone felt the Spirit as those songs were being sung. We all felt united.”
“The first song has always been a happy song for me,” Megan says. “I feel like it had that impact on people at the festival. I had a fun time singing it and I hope they all enjoyed it as well. And the second song, the voices blended so well. I think everyone who listened to it felt a spirit of respect and awe for God.”
At the end of the evening, Megan continues, “We were able to talk with participants and audience members. I know people were asking our choir director about the songs we sang—’What kind of music was that?’ or ‘Where did you find that arrangement?’ We were able to interact with each other and talk about the music we all shared. I felt like I was able to understand them more through their songs, and that they understood us better because of ours. Music is like a window to your soul.”