David Crowder Band’s “We Are Loved” played at least three times as I drove the four exits along Highway 30 West from my apartment to The Row House’s Back Porch Music & Arts Fest at Prospect Valley Farm. I chose this song to stave off the self-consciousness I felt about attending my first music festival. Although I had conversed with half the bands and all the speakers, I feared spending twelve hours among an audience of unfamiliar faces.
When I arrived, however, the first person I saw was the director of Square Halo Gallery, where I have played piano three times over the past nine months. At the ticketing table, I encountered people I met at other events produced by The Row House. Throughout the day, I spoke with musical and ministerial friends from Lancaster, Harrisburg, and Brooklyn.
The first band, The Reverie, fresh from recording in the studio of Forgotten Genre Productions, was composed of three Lancaster Bible College students whom I have gotten to know in classrooms and cafes over the past academic year. The instrumental trio’s two-month development of freedom in improvising on motives and refinement in accompanying each other impressed me. During the last band, The Crossing, I alternated between dancing to fiddle and bagpipe jigs and meditating on whistle and harp lullabies. In between, I was thrilled to hear the harmonica playing of The Welcome Wagon, the sung “Hallelujahs” of James McLaughlin, and the drum solos of The Go Particle.
As I returned home from Prospect Valley Farm, I listened to “Shadows” and “Eastern Hymn” on the same album. The recorded themes of struggle, grace, and hope resonated with what I had heard from the live artists. Although we musicians–and human beings in general–vary in the amount of effort it takes to present our true selves to others, we encourage each other each time we do.