Call and Response

The jazz musician Courtney Pine finished off his tour dates for 2018 this week in Glasgow at the Òran Mór. Despite a previously gruelling schedule with special guest singer Omar, he and his band gave an enthusiastic and fun-filled performance.

As part of the drawing-in of the audience, he and Omar got us all to respond to tunes they would play or hum. We did not too badly, though the jumping was a bit energetic for most of us (a tale for another day)!


Call and response has been at the heart of jazz since its birth in the early twentieth century. This was the influence of spiritual and gospel music on the genre right from the start. Call and response is at the heart of our faith and liturgy.


Both in the celebration of mass and in the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, the ‘toing and froing’ of the prayers and psalms invite the performance and expression of our deeply held beliefs. Our hearts, minds, and very bodies are tuned-in to the Spirit of Christ pulling us towards him and urging us to pray with him to the Father. This is how we are caught up in the life of God.


This idea of call and response is central to Advent, and we can see it again in this Sunday’s gospel reading (3rdSunday of Advent). The call of the Baptist to prepare a way for the Lord is answered by the tax collector and the soldier, who ask what it is they must do: how can their lives echo the cry of the Baptist? They feel the urge to change and they look for some direction.


Such is the resonance in the spirits of these people as they hear John speak that they feel deep inside themselves the bubbling-up of expectation: could this be the Christ?


John’s answer in return is typically self – effacing: he isn’t at the centre; Christ is.

He is the warm-up act, inviting people to wake up, change and feel the joy that is coming to them.


The ‘headliner’ is close; the Messiah who brings the very Spirit of God as gift to all.

Courtney Pine’s recent tour was entitled, ‘Black Notes from the Deep.’ From deep inside this man there are often very unusual sounds expressed through his instruments in an incredible flow of excitement. Pine’s performances never leave you unaffected.


From deep inside us this Advent, the Spirit of God can rise changing our life’s ‘playlist’ forever.


Prayer Suggestion


Spend a few minutes each day, if you can, just listening to yourself, your breathing, your emotions, your aches and pains. As you listen carefully, you might catch the sound of the deep notes of your spirit beginning to resonate with the Spirit of God.

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