Music heals. There are scientific explanations, as well as just plain old human experience, to support this. And live music can not only mends hearts and souls, but it brings humans together and, hopefully, out of their virtual worlds. That’s exactly what’s on the docket for Ventura County on Sunday, Feb. 25, when the Ventura Music Festival’s Concert for Ventura will take place.
“This offers a real chance to grieve and commiserate and come together to heal. Our lives flower in community and relationships,” noted Ventura Music Festival Artistic Director Nuvi Mehta. Mehta, who lives in San Diego and has been with the festival for 14 years, experienced wildfires in San Diego 10 years ago that forced him and his wife to evacuate for two weeks (their home remained safe). He spoke publicly on the subject of music healing a few years ago.
“Music has a unique power to reach us because it reaches directly into the subconscious, making no pit stop whatsoever in the conscious mind for interpretation,” Mehta noted in his 2014 TEDx San Diego talk. “Those feelings convey to us a sense of the truth about what we are witnessing.”
It’s no secret that certain types of music can create a calming effect on the body — neural imagery has shown this. Music is being used to calm anxiety for those undergoing cancer therapy and, according to a Harvard study, has helped quell nausea and vomiting too. Even Alzheimer’s patients experience radical effects from the healing power of music.
Writing and creating music has also been curative for composers. Historically, perhaps one of the most famous pieces of music in response to human times of sorrow is Olivier Messiaen’s haunting “Quartet for the End of Time” which premiered in 1941 at the Stalag VIII-A prisoner-of-war camp in Görlitz, Germany, where the composer had been confined since his capture in May 1940.
A range of musical styles will be performed in the Concert for Ventura that will take place in downtown Ventura’s Mission Park. The headliner, Tom Scott and L.A. Express, will “rock the town,” according to Mehta. Up-and-coming Spanish guitarist Diego Garcia, whom Mehta called an “amazing talent who will be a huge star,” is one of several musicians donating their time. Guitarist John Jorgenson, Ojai songstress Perla Batalla (who fittingly will perform Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”), the Ventura College Singers and other guest artists are also scheduled to appear. Unsurprisingly, many will also perform at the VMF in July.
“Melody reaches out and sings and hopefully resonates with a community that needs spiritual help, which isn’t always via religion or a psychologist,” noted composer/arranger/pianist Bevan Manson, an instructor at Ventura College. Maestro Mehta will put down the baton to perform some of Manson’s violin sonatas at the concert. “The sonic beauty often speaks to people who are grieving, if they are open. Melodies are intimate and console us with the beauty of sound and expressiveness. It’s important to be reminded of one’s humanity. Art makes you feel less lonely.”
You can even begin your healing sonic journey at home. Mehta recommended listening to music (15 minutes or more of Bach) instead of the news and see how much better you feel. In the baroque era, composers wrote music in one unchanging tempo to “align our emotions” he noted.
“Listen this week . . . to Bach and then ask yourself how you are. You will feel deeper, you will feel wider. The perfect logic of those harmonies acting directly on your subconscious will have tuned you to a sense of what is true,” he said.
And so as our collective communities, which have been suffering from deep grief and shock, try to recover, we must be gentle and kind with one another. And of course, we must not forget those who worked so tirelessly to protect our homes and land.
“We want this to be a thank-you to all the first responders as well,” noted Mehta.
It’s time for music as prayer and to “Come together, right now.”
The Concert for Ventura takes place on Sunday, Feb. 25, 3-5 p.m. at Mission Park on Main Street. between Ventura Avenue and Palm Street in Downtown Ventura. Blankets and low folding chairs are recommended. For more information, call 648-3146 or visit www.venturamusicfestival.org.