Was it something spiritual or just an adrenalin rush? I had a dream part in a Shabbat service last week. As Jewish folk singer Julie Silver sang her musical composition of Shir Chadash, I accompanied on the flute. Listeners said later that they could sense my joy.
A decade ago, I would have said that playing flute in front of any audience only gave me an adrenalin rush. Now, I am closer to my faith, and my answer is a combination. When I sing or play flute on the bimah during a temple service, I feel something spiritual and get that thrill of excitement from performing. It’s hard to separate the two.
When it’s time to perform, butterflies amass in my gut. Last week, my time to play Shir Chadash came at the tag end of the service, a 50th anniversary celebration for the Temple Isaiah sisterhood. Sitting in the back row of service participants, I sipped from a cup of water as my face flushed red from heat. It was warm outside and seemed stifling inside the sanctuary.
Moments before I was to play, I grabbed my flute and blew softly into it. Please, please be in tune, I thought. My flute was now cold from sitting there unused for nearly a half hour. I gathered flute, music folder, and stand, and strode to the center of the bimah. The butterflies disappeared as soon as I faced the congregation. Julie, her guitar in hand, gave me a huge smile.
I stole glances at her foot, stomping a steady, loud beat. In her soulful, alto voice, she sang Shir Chadash, Psalm 96, and I joined in on the repeat of the first part.
The more we played, the more comfortable I became. I took my flute into its highest register and swayed with the music. Now, the flush on my face stemmed from an inner glow. Mushy-sounding, but true. Notes on my flute rang clearer than I could have hoped. At one point, Julie stopped singing and told everyone else to sing the words they knew so well. The sanctuary filled with song, and all of us, sitting in the sanctuary and standing on the bimah, united in a beautiful, spiritual high, as we sang: “Sing unto God all the earth a new song. I will sing unto God a new song. Sing unto God and we’ll all sing along…”
Yes, I was performing, and had a huge adrenalin rush. But I also felt what I was playing in the depths of my soul. Maybe the same spiritual rush would have rippled through me from a seat in the sanctuary. But I think I felt it more because I was helping to lead the experience through music. A few people afterward commented, “Good job.” Job? No. It wasn’t a job. It was my way of singing unto God. Music years ago helped me reconnect to the religion of my birth. Last week, it helped me reach an indescribable spiritual high.