This week I made a pilgrimage to Melbourne to see one of my all time favourite American musicians- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I wasn’t alone in my pilgrimage … thousands of fans around the world have made similar pilgrimages. I wonder if stadiums (or is it stadia?) are the new Cathedrals in our fiercely secular country? There was certainly the call and response, the altar call, the faithful and the high priest. There was ritual and liturgy. We all knew what to expect and what part we had to play – supporting the star to crowd surf, reverently remembering the fallen, acclaiming the alchemy, respecting the hallowed ground and finding our own spirit nourished by the sound, the energy and the message. The standing up, sitting down, dancing, waving, hand clapping, air punching, sign holding, gentle swaying; all liturgical movements of their own like fingers in a glove, in place and in time.
Songlines that bind generations and cultures together sharing the same vision for a world where the worker is at the heart of society. No job too small or too big and certainly this was a band that has earnt its reputation as the ‘hardest working band in rock and roll”. They are like the union choirs and bands of old, blending their voices, instruments and message into one harmonious and triumphant wall of sound (yes there were a few moments that Phil Spector would have been very happy). Watching them work together was a master class in team work and collaboration. There was room for everyone. I kept noticing the guitar technicians, the lighting crew, the backstage staff, all worker bees buzzing around to be in the exact right place and the exact right time and never failing or faulting. When the final applause came the conductor, team captain, high priest and guru all rolled into one, patted everyone on the back before he left the stage, a job well done that they all did together. Yes a masterclass in leadership as well was thrown in.
Hildegard, my hunch is that your Abbey and the cathedrals you frequented were like this stadium too – full of pilgrims, talent and glorious sounds. Your music still brings me to my feet, fills my soul with joy and a message that sustains me. I can imagine you and Bruce sitting down together with your communities maybe on an E Street somewhere and discovering what your communities both have in common.
Seeing Tom’s guitar shouting out messages that Woody Guthrie would have been proud, has plenty in common with your sisters leaving their homes and supporting your land reforms. The legacy of Clarence and his saxophone lives on and the homage paid by the faithful would be understood and shared as gift given and still being received by the next generation. You might have a conversation about recent elections – Obama and Francis – and discuss your own parts in those historical events. I know as an Aussie a long way from the US, how grateful I am to Bruce for helping out on Obama’s campaign and have given thanks more than once!
I love the continuous tradition that music enables of speaking truth to power, providing a vehicle for the masses to sing their songs of hope and fear, celebration and commemoration, grief and joy. I love the threads that come together when I can hear a celtic reel in an working class anthem or a drone echoing in a chorus or an organ chord progression that is ancient and commanding as ever.
Maybe the stadium is the new cathedral or maybe it isn’t – but I know that across the aeons we are all connected and kairos happens. That special and unique moment that connects me, in real time, to both Bruce and Hildegard; E Street and Bingen.