It was a dark stormy night…. No, really it was. DC has been underwater for the last several days, and another deluge was in the works as my uber pulled up to the chunky dimensions of a grand DC townhouse. Could this really be it? A parishioner invited me to join him and some friends for a rehearsal of their choral group. What a nice invite… but this edifice, this great old keep… could this really be where a bunch of guys were gathering to sing among friends?
It was indeed the right place. My friend had bought the home years ago and was slowly, painstakingly restoring its former glory. In the meantime, he hosts frequent rehearsals of The Suspicious Cheese Lords a group of ordinary DC guys who sing works from the West’s great treasury of Renaissance wonders. Even more intriguing, the Cheese Lords only sing works that have never been recorded!
I touched the front door knob. As the door gave way, so did all the tensions of a new place and stormy night. Inside was warmth and a carefully assembled potluck of meat, potatoes and wine to warm hearts and minds before rehearsal. The Cheese Lords are a quirky smily agglomeration of musicians, federal workers, scholars… it’s all very DC… and it’s WONDERFUL. I was instantly at ease with the joyful band and we laughed our way through dinner before they set down to the evening’s work: singing. Sheet music shuffled around the group, some of it ending up in my hands. I started to hand it back, when my hosts questioned, “aren’t you going to sing with us? We heard you sing.”
I was amazed and a little nervous; I hadn’t sung polyphony since seminary. But slowly, it came back: first the beat, then the notes and slowly the sense of the music… of fitting into a harmonious hole… What can I say but, “Wonderful!”
The Suspicious Cheese Lords are what music, and in a special way sacred music is all about: hearts and minds bound as one through the Love of a music and a message greater than themselves. Into the hands of that music they surrender their voices so that they can transmit a transcendent Word. “Are they all Catholics?” You may ask… I don’t know… and I’m not sure it matters. Their music witnessed to me that Jesus is Lord… and no one can say that unless the Holy Spirit is at work in them (cf I Cor. 12:3). One might also assume that these are all classically trained experts, but they’re just ordinary Joes. Transcendence doesn’t flow from our expertise, but from God’s… that’s why it’s transcendent. What is required of us is a little humility and a lot of love. I got to experience all of that last night, for which I say, “Thank you Lord.” And thank you to the Suspicious Cheese Lords.
Albums by The Suspicious Cheese Lords are easily available on iTunes. I highly recommend checking them out. They also have a website: http://www.suspiciouscheeselords.com