This "virtual choir" makes inspiring use of new technologies. "Lux Aurumque" means "light and gold," referring to Christ's Incarnation.
Three Saturdays ago, I approached the breakfast table to find a teen peering from my laptop screen with quirky, bug-eyed intensity. The boy was lip-synching to a pop song, and his act had been frozen mid-syllable.
"He's gone viral," explained my husband, handing over our town's newspaper. On the front, a nearly full-page photo displayed the same boy, a Freshman at the local high school who lip-synchs pop tunes into his computer webcam and posts them on his own Youtube channel. Going "viral," his videos have been viewed by upwards of 40 million people.
Hometown kids sharing music on this scale? Unprecedented. Inspiring. Problematic. On the up side, new technologies allow talents to soar. Hitting headlines last week was 11-year-old Jackie Evancho, who first won acclaim on TV's America's Got Talent with Gounod's Ave Maria. Her album Dream with Me, released June 14, challenged rapper Eminem's Bad Meets Evil for #1 new album on Billboard's charts. Evancho came in second (beating Lady Gaga and Barry Manilow), with songs like A Mother's Prayer (performed with Susan Boyle), Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro and Handel's Ombra Mai Fu, and more popular tunes like When You Wish Upon a Star.
Evancho's a prodigy but something else helped her rocket to stardom -- people shared her talents through technology. For example, I learned about her from my mom, who showed me a recorded Evancho PBS special. I returned home to Google the girl's online videos, found her fan webpage, and am now sharing her music through Facebook, Twitter and blogging.
"Do not conform yourselves to this age," says Romans 12:2, "but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect." Many entertainers are renewing their minds, using technology to advantage and offering inspiring fare.
My oldest teen introduced me to Eric Whitaker's "Virtual Choir" (top of blog) and I showed her this upbeat Cajun band, L'Angelus (below).
Innovative technologies can help us investigate new sounds, record and refine our own musical talents and spread great music exponentially. Sharing music, whether sacred or secular, classic or contemporary, can be an act of charity that brightens someone's day, uplifts their spirit, and introduces them to a new repertoire. How can we develop a wide-ranging love of music, and extend that to others -- both first-hand and effectively using technology?:
It's no news flash that a huge disconnect can exist between parents and teens regarding technology and pop culture. When kids are plugged into ear buds, it's tough to gauge their musical tastes. And while parents work long hours to make the world go 'round, teens have privacy and freedom to easily delve into murky waters, accessing music and images that are far darker than what was once accepted as mainstream.
What seems new is the meteoric heights and influence quickly reached by digital music stars. One high school dropout recently rocketed onto Billboard charts and into the Guinness Book of World Records. Her concert last week in Tampa, Florida, drew a crowd of more than 12,000, from the ages of fourth grade through mid-40's, according to a Tampa paper. The first line in the article describing the event was "Sex still sells." The concert featured 15 costume changes and looked like a burlesque show. It's astonishing that parents take kids to see these shows.
As for the mainstreaming of lewd lyrics, "People who'd never do things mentioned in songs think it's ok to sing the words if they're set to catchy music," one of my teens mused. But the words we speak do reflect the state of our soul.
It's often said America's culture today was partly shaped by the musical groups of the 1960's. So what does the nature of pop groups today predict about America's moral landscape in the next 30 years? We can all have a say in how this scenario unfolds.
Some kids disappear hours on end to have parties of one before computer webcams. Of course, even adults struggle with addictive computer behavior. Photo by E. Bartholomew
Pope Benedict XVI loves to play the piano, and in 2009 spoke about beautiful music as "a spiritual and therefore universal language." It's a way to bring "understanding and union between individuals and peoples. Music...accompanies all human experiences, from suffering to pleasure, from hatred to love, from sadness to joy, from death to life...It is...no coincidence that all civilisations have given importance and value to music in its various forms and expressions... great music almost naturally invites us to raise our minds and hearts to God in all situations of human existence, the joyful and the sad. Music can become prayer."
Serving inner city Brooklyn youth, Father Stan Fortuna turns rap into prayer.
Of course, some musicians are more about earning six-digit royalties than making music prayer, so we have to use caution in the blogosphere. Here are a few reminders to help us be good gatekeepers regarding what floods into our homes:
... or, a fledgling composer from another state who began his own popular Youtube channel...
We just have to keep it all in balance and remember -- first-person contact trumps technology any day. Have suggestions as to how we can better use technology in our quest to spread excellent music? Let me know by leaving a comment. In the meanwhile, I'll sign off with another virtual choir video entitled "Sleep:" Good night and happy listening!