David Robert Jones, MS LPC

Playing Together (60)

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This past Saturday, the day before Easter, I was invited to share the sounds of the handpan as the opening and closing of a contemplative gathering. 

I try to under-prepare for these kinds of settings so that I can be attentive to the mood and allow my heart to lead my hands.

While talking to a dear friend earlier in the day on Saturday, he asked if I would play something over the phone. I played a short progression of notes and instantly felt that this was the foundation of the melody for the opening musical offering. I played around with it a bit once or twice during the afternoon and had a sense of a basic beginning, middle, and end of a composition with lots of room for extended improvisation throughout. I checked in with my son, Noah, and he added a second refrain that felt just perfect. 

For the closing music, I didn’t have a sense of what it would be. I tried a couple of things at home, but none of them felt right. So, I decided to just wait and see what would arise in the moment. I have put in the practice time, busking time, and performing time to feel comfortable with this arrangement and I have a great deal of trust that what is needed will arise and make itself known in the moment. 

Before leaving the house, I tested the equipment and made sure my mic setup and EQ was just right so that I could plug and play once we arrived. 

The gathering was outdoors and we had a chance to eat together and talk and enjoy being with each other before the service. 

There was already a sense of feeling seen, heard, and connected as I sat down to play the opening music. The melody I had heard earlier in the day felt true to the moment, so I composed a song around it, leaving plenty of open space to feel the cool breeze blowing out of the west and to hear the ambient sounds of the neighborhood street and kids playing in our midst. 

At the end of the service, I sat with my pan in my lap not really knowing what was going to happen. 

But it happened. 

A rhythm became a song that told a story that was not my story but our story. 

I watched my hands dance around the pan as if they were someone else’s hands. 

I heard music and transitions and progressions that I hadn’t heard before. 

I heard the pan sing in new ways, show me more of her secrets, and invite me to just trust the feeling of this moment and enjoy the ride. 

And, oh! what a wonderful ride it was. 

I was in another world, so to speak. It is so hard to describe when things like this happen. The essence of it goes beyond words.

It is like life living me. Life living us. 

Like watching it all unfold while being completely part of the unfolding. 

Afterward, one after another person expressed how moving the last piece was, how it resonated with them, how it spoke to them, how it mesmerized them, how it took them on a journey, how it connected them to a sense of deep and abiding peace.

The most common question I received after playing was about the second song: 

“Did you have that one already composed?”

“No.” I said.

“I didn’t think so. It felt like the music was just exactly what I needed in the moment”

And, another: 

“It had the air of inspiration about it. I felt that I was somehow part of it.”

And my sense is that we were, indeed, all playing the handpan together. We were all a part of “it”.

Rather than a solo act, we were a choir of energetic resonance, harmonizing with one another in a language that is hidden deep within the soul, beyond words. 

Soul speaking to soul.

Deep speaking unto deep.

Life inviting us to abide in and as love.


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