I thought I would give up this blog since we’re not travelling any more. But recently I’ve reconsidered. We’re still roadtripping to music festivals around New Zealand. We’re still worldschooling. I’m still rambling in my journal. So here goes …
A few weeks ago we went to a 3 day world music and dance festival in Taranaki called WOMAD. Pat and I worked for some friends at their tea bar Herbal Potential in exchange for tickets. We tried to see as many acts as possible in between shifts. The kids were so excited to arrive, get their armbands, get the map and schedule and explore.
On my first shift, a lady came to the tea bar requesting a calming tea. She was feeling upset about the shooting. “What shooting?!” She explained what had happened that day in Christchurch, that 50 people had been shot. I’d had no idea. I often feel like we’re in a bubble; homeschooling and not watching the news. It felt strange to be at a big festival celebrating music and dance, knowing what had just happened. We broke the news to the kids that night back at the tent. They had heard one musician say “To all our muslim brothers and sisters, we love you and you belong here, so we dedicate this to you.” Now they understood why.
The Sunday was hot and Molly and I went to sit under a large oak tree by a little stage. I wasn’t sure which band was on next but it was nice to be in the shade. It turned out to be a workshop by a celtic band from Wales called Bajon. They were to tell stories and answer questions from the crowd during their set. One minute I was laughing at their sound issues and jokes – what antics! The next minute I was crying. I was brought to tears by a melody, being played so intensely and beautifully, by the lead singer on his accordion. The song was called “I thought I saw a Hummingbird” and the artist had written it when he was a teenager. I was crying from joy. It was stunning.
I got the song. I heard everything that musician had to say. His hope and disappointment. Fleeting moments, possibility, self doubt. I let myself be overwhelmed with the song’s beauty and was in awe. It sang out, that accordion. And then sadness. All of us sitting here, we have lost this music. Didn’t we used to sing together every night a few generations ago? It was our heritage and it’s been replaced with Netflix.
Then I was crying for all the families who are Muslim in Christchurch. I am so sorry that happened to you. I was hiding my tears behind my sunglasses and Molly sitting on my lap, and feeling alone in the crowd. Then I stopped crying and felt a great emotional release.
I told Alice Sea about it … actually I didn’t tell her. She guessed straightway. All I said was “There was this great Celtic band,” to which she answered “Did you cry?” This was out of the blue, I’m not usually emotional. “Yes I did.” Then she replied, “I cried during Marlia Projects’s acoustic set at Emily’s house.” Alice’s eyes were closed and she saw a movie playing in her mind to the music. A story, a red dress, a horse and then memories, a loved one who is no longer with her. Tears.
Friends, are we crying more often? Are our hearts growing softer as the years go on?
My experience at Womad reminded me of a TED talk that I’d watched years ago talking about the the transformative power of classical music. Composer Benjamin Zander plays the sad slow piano piece by Chopin. He tells the audience to imagine someone that they loved but is no longer with him. Scenes flash before your eyes and you feel like the music is directing your memories….
“But I’ll tell you what happened to me in Ireland during the Troubles, 10 years ago, and I was working with some Catholic and Protestant kids on conflict resolution. And I did this with them — a risky thing to do, because they were street kids. And one of them came to me the next morning and he said, “You know, I’ve never listened to classical music in my life … He said, “My brother was shot last year and I didn’t cry for him. But last night, when you played that piece, he was the one I was thinking about. And I felt the tears streaming down my face. And it felt really good to cry for my brother.”
Sunday night I worked at the tea bar til 11pm and Pat had to work 7am the next morning. So after 3 days of festival and work, I had to drive the whole family home in the rain until 4am. On New Zealand roads. With logging trucks. My eyes were drooping, it wasn’t safe, so I pulled over at a petrol station and got a pie and an energy drink. Two energy drinks. What music was I going to listen to, to get my through? Not Chopin. And sure as heck not Celtic music. I know … Boyz 2 Men. I pretended to be an RnB singer who was driving through the night to their lover and singing the harmony.
Music helps, heals, transforms. Makes you cry from joy and sadness. Helps you to feel. Because, at the end of the day thats our goal isn’t it? To feel and love deeply, to have big open hearts and to live a life in which we, again and again, feel intensely alive.
Thank you WOMAD and Taranaki, we’ll be back.
And thanks for reading friends xx.