by Ben Winkler
Proclaim member and first year seminarian at Luther Seminary
There is something about the experience of making music which brings me closer to God than almost anything else. This has been true for as long as I can remember. I use music to express emotions in a healthy and constructive way that lets me process life. For me, this usually takes the form of opera. I am obsessed with opera (actually, literally obsessed). This also means that some of my happiest and saddest moments are connected to the music that I make.
I do a lot of composing and arranging as a hobby. It has been an incredible study break for me as a first year seminarian. Most of the music that I am proudest of composing is my vocal music. When I was approached to write this blog, it was in regards to a specific song that I composed for men’s choir based on the classic wedding text “Arise my love” (click here to listen to it). But the time when I started writing this piece made all the difference in how this song looks… here’s where I was at that moment:
I started writing it hours after coming out as gay the first time to the first person. That night, September 13th, 2016, I went to the open rehearsal of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus- because saying that I was gay out loud was too hard for me. I found what I needed- the first proudly LGBTQIA+ community that I had ever known, and they didn’t look like the stereotypes that the world had taught me to expect- they looked like people. I needed an outlet to express what this experience meant to me- what my hopes were for a future that I could hardly imagine for myself- what I wanted to become through them, and so I opened up my music notation software and started to write in 8 part TTBB harmony. What I wrote is a love song dedicated “to my beloved, whoever he may be”.
Music has given me an outlet to say what I cannot, to be strong when I am not, to give me a community who understands me better than I understand myself. I hope someday to go back into that score and delete “whoever he may be” and replace it with a name. For now, I know that this world is often scary and intimidating, but God has called us all to preach a Gospel of radical love in the face of exclusionism- We seek a world where the next generations will have the courage to name their truth in the confidence of love and acceptance.
I have written some music for church choirs and have intentions to do more of it. I am also working on a new sung/spoken liturgy setting for the uplifting of the LGBTQIA+ community. I am happy to share my resources with you and your congregations. While most of my music is not released to the public domain, I will never charge an RIC congregation or a Proclaim pastor for the use of my church music or liturgical materials- I consider this a part of the ministry that I can bring to the ELCA and to the glory of God.
Ben Winkler (he/him/his) is a first year student at Luther Seminary. Ben’s identity is deeply tied to his Lutheran roots, and he enjoys debating theological questions as often as possible. A life-long student of music, Ben is active in the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus and their Chamber Choir and Opera on Tap: Twin Cities. Ben has sung with some amazing musicians, and does not deserve (yet has) a resume which includes being a section leader for Weston Noble, sharing a stage with Samuel Ramey, and multiple featured roles in professional operatic productions. Ben is an over-thinker, and thus it took him far too long to write this paragraph.
Photo at top: Public commons
Bio Photo: Provided by Ben Winkler