You can be taken by surprise when you walk through the doors of the Old Dutch Church during our unique program “Seven Sundays: A Celebration of Music in Worship”. I certainly was when we were gifted with a performance by two members of Taiko-Masala along with four of their many drums. I wasn’t sure how Taiko drumming would fit into a Reformed liturgy. The prelude began with the blowing of a conch shell which stilled the room – almost like a call to worship – and then the drumming began. Unfamiliar sounds and rhythms filled the church and it took me a while to adjust my expectations and let the music speak for itself.
These Seven Sundays give us an opportunity to break with the traditional habits and rhythms of our ordinary worship. That’s a good thing. At the Old Dutch we are in a smaller space than our Tarrytown church and more likely to answer a rhetorical question posed by the Pastor in his sermon because there isn’t a big gulf between us. Even when he climbs the traditional pulpit, there is still an intimacy in this space. We are just a one-room building, so Sunday school is tucked away on a blanket under a tent in the burying ground. Our children learn early that that headstones aren’t something to fear, they simply represent our spiritual ancestors.
The Old Dutch Church seems to have been built for music. The acoustics are incredible. Which is ironic because early Calvinist liturgy did not permit musical accompaniment with singing. And singing was limited to the psalms and sometimes other text from scripture. Nothing was to distract from the light of the gospel. Today we sing hymns accompanied by organ, woodwinds, strings and other orchestral instruments. During the Seven Sundays, we may add the Celtic sounds of the tin whistles and the Uillean Pipes, Hawaiian Slack Key guitar, Indian flutes, or African drums. We may offer silent prayer the sound of a Broadway melody or Columbian Jazz composition.
At one time the Taiko drums, not unlike the Great Highland Bagpipes, were used to set a marching pace for military troops and communicate troop movements with various rhythms. Gradually, their use broadened. Today they are employed for peaceful purposes.
Following the service, Sensei Hiro invited those interested to pick up the sticks and jam with him. It was an exhilarating experience. I’ve never done anything like this before.
We played for about a minute and sounded pretty good. Jeremy Goldsmith, one of our music directors, mentioned that he was just following the energy and I felt the same way. Sensei nodded his head in affirmation. I think we got a virtual gold star.
Thanks to Maria Canales for taking the photos. And thanks to all of our musical guests for enriching our worship: Blake Rowe, Pablo Mayor Trio, Anna Povich de Mayor, Cris Groenendaal and Sue Anderson, Caidre with John Walsh, Dawn Doherty, and Frankie McCormack, Sensei Hiro Kurashima and Les Van Losberg from Taiko-Masala, and Rich Simons.