Billy Jonas will perform at Adat Shalom Synagogue at 29901 Middlebelt Rd., Farmington Hills on Sunday, March 27, at 11 am. The community is invited to this very special show. We hope you will join us. Mr. Jonas wrote the following to share his passion for performing for an interfaith audience:
I love performing in interfaith contexts — both secular gatherings with many faiths gathered, or a mono-religious service, with a multi-faith focus. It warms my heart to see people reaching out to each other in spite of strong differences. I really think the future depends on this.
I grew up in Hyde Park, near the University of Chicago. The students, professors and their families were extremely diverse. This felt not only normal and natural, but vital. I have learned so much from folks who see the world differently from me or whose experiences are divergent from mine.
Though my initial experiences were in cultural contexts, it has been a natural extension to find and foster that vitality in faith communities.
A concert experience is inherently spiritual. It asks people to be vulnerable with strangers, to collectively listen, feel, trust and embrace something new. If done well, a concert allows the illusion of our separateness to fade away. As an audience, we become an organism, and temporarily re-experience our primordial one-ness. That’s as spiritual an experience as one can have.
An interfaith concert can be exponentially more spiritual because it allows us to get explicit about this endeavor. It further erodes the divisions and distinctions that obscure our natural sense of oneness with each other.
Specifically, singing together has this effect in a powerful way.
Physicists tell us that the smallest particle in the universe is a vibration. So, when we sing with others, we are collectively touching and moving the source of our beings, and the source of all things. Literally!
Interfaith gatherings really amplify the profundity of this endeavor because we get to look at our connections through multiple lenses – the various languages, styles, and approaches of each tradition. And yet, all this beauty is in the service of helping it fall away — for so much of what is beautiful about each individual faith and makes it unique is also peripheral to the main concern: unity. We ultimately get to celebrate our individual expressions of divine nature, as well as acknowledge our central connectedness.
My first experience of this was during summer camp in Irons, Michigan, at YMCA Camp Martin Johnson, in the Manistee National Forest, near Ludington. I remember, as an 8-year-old, joining an ecumenical gathering in an outdoor chapel, on weather-worn wooden benches surrounded by pine trees. The kids and adult staff were bussed in from Chicago — a rainbow of skin colors and faith traditions. During the service, folk songs and poems alternated with beautiful moments of silence, punctuated by bird calls echoing across Big Bass Lake, and a soft breeze ruffling the tops of the trees. I recall a slowly dawning sense of being one big organism with everyone, connected by music and nature and the great “neo-tribal” equalizer which is summer camp. It was a spiritual awakening, bounded by no particular faith. I took it to heart in a deep way.
I would say my entire career as a musician, and as a sacred music team member at my synagogue, carries the reverberation of this seminal experience. I look forward to sharing it with you on Sunday March 27th! I’ll have the band with me (Sherman Hoover on bass, vocals and re-percussion; Ashley Jo Farmer on vocals and re-percussion) — we’ll present songs from our latest recording (“habayta – homeward”), and more.