Liturgy, when done well, elevates the soul. It connects us with the divine, raises us above the mundane, and provides us with a foretaste of Heaven. This past weekend I experienced a liturgy of sorts at the Leaf & Bean in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. Legendary Pittsburgh musicians Bill Toms and Phil Brontz were presiding over Singer-Songwriter-Saturday, a weekly event from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., at this landmark cigar and coffee bar.
The congregation was enraptured by a litany of rock, blues, soul, folk, and gospel music as the incense of cigar smoke carried their worldly stress and worries skyward; freeing them at least for a little while from the pressures of daily life. Guest preachers were plentiful, including the venerable soul man Billy Price; blues diva Andrea Pearl; rock vicar Patrick Maloney of The Pump Fakes; and acoustic acolyte Wil Kondrich. Throughout the service, The Reverend Bill Toms and Rabbi Phil Brontz spoke hope to despair with the sacred instruments of guitar and saxophone.
The great German-Jewish poet Berthold Auerbach wrote that “music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” If your soul is in need of a washing, I recommend stopping by The Leaf & Bean some Saturday afternoon.