Monday, January 9, 2023

Restoring Christian Culture

In recent months, my kids (ages 11, 12, and 14) and I started a YouTube channel called Bloomfield Bluegrass. Please subscribe at www.youtube.com/@bloomfieldbluegrass.

The channel's primary aim is to teach viewers how to sing bluegrass harmonies. But the channel also documents our own musical progrress and helps motivate us to learn and produce new material. Here's one of our recent videos:

So why am I posting this here?

In recent days, as my parish men's group has begun reading John Senior's Restoration of Christian Culture, I realized that our YouTube channel and family musical tradition actually fits well into this project of restoring the culture, and also into my goals when I first published the Sacred Art Series.

My purpose in publishing the Sacred Art Series was to create something beautiful that would aid our reading of the Gospels. I believe that the Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John achieved this. Of course this is just one small way of advancing beauty, truth, and goodness. There are countless areas in our modern lives where we need more of these transcendentals. In fact, it can seem overwhelming and difficult to know where to begin. 

Helpfully, Senior recommends beginning in the home and encourages families to bring music into their homes. And by music, Senior means not passively listening to music, but creating our own music. My own experience with music supports Senior's recommendation.

Music has been a great blessing in my own life. I've enjoyed playing and singing bluegrass with my father and siblings, and more recently, with my own children. Over the years, I've gradually learned a number of different instruments: banjo, guitar, mandolin, acoustic bass, piano, and a bit of violin. I've also gradually improved my singing in both bluegrass and sacred music. Not surprisingly, I've encouraged my own children to develop their musical talents, both vocally and instrumentally. 

Over the years, I've gently prodded my older kids to sing harmonies with me. Every now and then I succeeded in finding a piece (often a Christmas Carol) that attracted their interest and I would attempt to teach them harmonies. It was slow gowing at first. The first piece we all sang together in four-part harmony was probably the Christmas carol Gaudete. This video is from about two years ago (although we had probably already been casually singing this piece for a few years before the video). 

For Christmas 2021, my kids became interested in the spanish Christmas Carol, Riu Riu Chiu. We worked it up and it sounded pretty good so we played it at our parish's Twelth Night party for Epiphany. Here's the video from a year ago:

This performance, and its enthusiastic reception, has encouraged the kids to continue developing their playing and singing. Over the last year, my kids have also become more and more interested in the music their Dad loves--bluegrass. Of course, I was thrilled by this development. For the past six months or so, when they clean the dishes after dinner, they typically listen (and sing along) to music by the Bluegrass Album Band, my favorite bluegrass band. This helped my oldest son to become more interested in bluegrass fiddle, and all of the kids to become interested in learning harmonies.

As I began to teach my own kids bluegrass harmonies, the idea of the YouTube channel began to develop. It's now been about three months that we've been publishing weekly videos and the channel has already been a success for us as a family because it has focused our singing and playing toward a weekly goal (producing a video); this has already greatly improved my kids' singing and ability to perform; and playing and singing music together has drawn us closer together as a family. So whether our channel ever reaches the masses or helps anyone to learn bluegrass, it's already been a success in our family. And I believe our family has made one small step forward in restoring Christian culture.

Please consider subscribing! And if our YouTube channel helps your family to bring music into your home, all the better!