Tonight and tomorrow our congregation’s choir (and various other musicians, most of whom are congregation members and staff) is putting on a concert, A Nation of Immigrants. The centerpiece is a mass by our music director, Henry Mollicone, a noted composer who is also, this year, a composer-in-residence here at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto. Ever since Henry became our music director, he has forged a connection between social justice and music. This piece, Misa de los Inmigrantes, alternates the elements of the Latin mass (here sung in Spanish) with narration, in English, telling the true story of a recent immigrant from Mexico. Another concert a few years ago featured his Beatitudes Mass, which also integrated interviews with real people, in this case homeless people; Henry stipulates that all proceeds from performances of this piece benefit the homeless. Tonight’s concert splits the proceeds between the Day Worker Center of Mountain View and UUCPA.
Music and justice are a natural fit for our congregation, and Henry has helped put them together in other ways, for example enthusiastically generating a list of pieces for a Coming Out Day service in which I requested that all of the music be by LGBT composers and librettists. I’ve been thinking about other ways to use our love of music, and the power music has to change hearts, to take it out beyond our worship services. How about a congregation-based Threshold Choir? Sending small groups to sing or play at hospitals, assisted-living facilities, shelters, or hospices? (As a teenager, I was very moved by caroling with my mom and a few other members of the New Haven Chorale at Yale-New Haven Hospital on Christmas Day.) Creating a group that sings songs of work, struggle, and peace? Creating musical groups whose membership intentionally combines members of the congregation and other groups such as recent immigrants (our area has a zillion), veterans (ditto), or people without homes (ditto)?