4 Voices of Taizé: 4 Voices of Integral City

Since I have moved to Findhorn Foundation Ecovillage in February 2018, I have committed to two collective practices both of which start my day. The first starts at 8am in the Nature Sanctuary (the second practice is Sanctuary which I will write about in the next blog).

Taizé is a beautiful tradition of singing sacred songs as a shared meditation (started in an ecumenical Christian monastic fraternity in Taizé, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France).

I love it because it brings the awareness of the world into our consciousness first thing everyday – as we sing in many languages. Any given morning our four songs might be sourced from Catalan, Latin, French, German, Russian, Greek, South African or Korean. Our singing chamber might hold 6 people in the dark of winter or 60 people (a record we set this August) at the height of summer courses.

Taizé songs are short, with mantra-like or chanting-style repetitions.  They can be sung in unison; in rounds of 2 to 4 parts; or 2 or 4-part harmony.

The chamber is set out kiva-style with simple wooden benches (graced by jewel-coloured cushions) around the stone walls. In the centre of the slate floor sits a beautiful altar. It is made from a large granite (or marble) egg that acts as the focus of our attention. This mysterious stone is sundered in half so that the inner surfaces are polished and one half, balanced at the horizontal, holds a lighted candle surrounded by fresh flowers.

Every day we have a new leader, who selects the songs from a small library of songbooks. We enter the kiva, removing our shoes and passing from an outer (profane) chamber into the sacred space through a draped doorway. We see the voices marked out on the floor. To the left of the door are the women’s voices: Soprano, Alto. To the right sit the men’s voices: Bass, Tenor.

Our order of service starts promptly at 8am and is always the same:

  • Greetings and Welcome
  • Sing 3 OM’s to bring our voices into tune with each other and the Universe.
  • 3 Songs
  • Prayer time – which may be said out loud in any language or in the silence of our hearts.
  • A final Song
  • Blessings and good wishes for the Day.

I wonder sometimes why I have become so committed to the practice? One reason might be that it is changing my brain!! As a person who could not carry a tune nor even remember one, I find that the melodies and words, so often repeated, now arise unbidden at any time of day – as inspirations, comforts, and reminders that the Divine is with us always.

If it were only the positive engagement with the music I would be a willing participant in this experiment of Integral mystery. For it involves the 4 Quadrants of the Spirit, the Body, the Community and the Intersection of Space/Time.  It unites the linguistic voices of I/individual singer, WE/self-selecting choir, IT/song book/composition, and ITS/resonant process and place.

But Taizé, with its 4 voices, also reflects (for me) the 4 Voices of the City. It symbolically gathers the Citizens, the Civic Managers, the Innovators and the Civil Society into the same space for a short period of time. We become the harmony of the human hive. In so doing, it co-creates community with a practice that is satisfying Aesthetically, Performatively, Relationally and Systemically. As such, Taizé brings many rewards to me for rising with the dawn and joyfully celebrating Life with whoever is called to share 20 sweet minutes.

Taizé is a practice that strengthens the 4 Voices of the Integral City every day the field of music arises here and elsewhere around the world. From the harmony of the 4 Voices, a kind of Grace descends over us that unites us in a profound sense of Oneness. It musically reminds me of the path we seek to become Gaia’s Reflective Organs. For that I am deeply grateful.

This blog series is a set of Dharma Reflections from Findhorn Foundation, Scotland.

About the Author:

HI I am the Founder of Integral City Meshworks Inc. and Chief Blogger. Working with cities and eco-regions, I ‘meshwork’ or weave people, purpose, priorities, profits, programs and processes to align contexts, grow capacity and develop strategies for sustainability and resilience in the Integral City. You can read more details about me here http://integralcity.com/about/about-the-founder/

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