I have loved music for as long as I can remember. Having grown up in the Methodist Church, I learned the importance of music in worship early on. We sing a lot of hymns and songs in our church, thank you very much, John and Charles Wesley! At the same time, at home, my dad would spin tunes on our record player, and we would sing at the top of our lungs in the house and with the radio in the car. I do the same today with my son, except my phone does all the work.
Music has enhanced the already blessed moments of my life. It has also made life bearable when it seemed as if everything was falling apart. From Amazing Grace to Margaritaville, music has consistently shaped me in deeply formative and spiritual ways.
That is why, over the course of the next year, I want to share some music with you. I hope to do this every couple of months as a way to enhance the content of these articles as well as our lives. By the end of the year, with any luck, I will introduce you to at least one new artist and their music.
I first discovered Peter Mayer through Jimmy Buffett. Peter is Buffett’s lead guitarist and has been for three decades; that is almost as long as I have been going to Buffett concerts. Mayer grew up the son of Lutheran missionaries in India, and according to his website, this landscape first shaped his passion for music. His work “evokes melodic notes such as music and lyrics of The Beatles, traditional Indian music, church hymns and jazz standards.”
Recently, we had the opportunity to host Peter and his son Brendan at Oxford College, where they spent the evening visiting with students over dinner and offering a concert in our chapel. They sang a number of songs, originals and covers, from their 2017 album, Long Story Short, including “Ghost of a Son,” a haunting but deeply powerful song about the relationship between fathers and sons.
Peter’s new album, Passages, is a collection of spiritual songs inspired by scripture passages from the Bible. It includes some older favorites some of you will recognize like “Abide With Me” but also a number of new songs written by Peter. You may purchase it at www.littleflockmusic.com. To learn more about Peter and his music, please visit his website www.petermayer.com.
I wanted to start with Peter and his music, because he keeps one foot in the sacred realm and the other in the secular. These distinctions, though helpful in describing the two worlds of music (among other things), are perhaps not as helpful when we really think about it. I find all of Peter’s music to be sacred to some degree, as is often the case no matter what I listen to these days.
Music moves my soul and helps to interpret the world around me. Sometimes it evokes feelings of deep praise, joy, and beauty. Other times, it helps me find the space to breathe or grieve and lament. It captures the range of emotions that we all experience at some point in our life.
In the Book of Acts in the New Testament of the Bible, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God, while the other prisoners listened. Then an earthquake shook the jail and the doors flew open to free them of their captivity. During the Civil Rights Movement in this country, leaders and participants used music as a sign of hope and justice to keep everyone marching forward to freedom. “Lift every voice and sing till earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty…” (“Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson).
Music is powerful, even more so when shared. Peter Mayer’s music is deeply spiritual and engages me in healthy ways. For me, it does what art should do in our lives and communities, which is to move us toward human flourishing. I hope you will check it out, and share it with others.
The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is the college chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University.