Lord, Let Me Never Outlive My Love to Thee

There is nothing I would rather do in church than serve as a musician. As a member of a church orchestra, I have the privilege of performing for the Lord using the talent He has given me, and I am blessed to do so as member of an amazing body of like-minded believers.

That being said, it is sometimes terribly difficult to worship myself when I am leading others in the act of it. While the congregation sits and listens to the sounds we produce as a group, we’re worried about key signatures, tricky rhythms, being in tune, and watching the conductor for any slight changes in tempo. I still feel close to the Lord when I play, but it’s more of an immediate connection, a rush of adrenaline, than it is a deep moment of contemplation.

That’s why Wayne and I decided to attend a service on Maundy Thursday at North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. This service, observed by some Protestant denominations as well as the Catholic church, commemorates the Last Supper and the commandment given to the disciples by Jesus Christ—to love one another as He loved us. The word mandatum means “covenant,” and it is where the “Maundy” in Maundy Thursday comes from.

I’ve taken part in this service before, but I had never had the privilege of experiencing Tenebrae until last night. This is an ancient service that dates back to the eighth century and involves three things—reading passages from Scripture, extinguishing candles, and choral and congregational singing.

We began by singing “Ah, Holy Jesus.”

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast Thou offended,
That man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by Thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
’Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee!
I crucified Thee.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
For man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

For me, kind Jesus, was Thy incarnation,
Thy mortal sorrow, and Thy life’s oblation;
Thy death of anguish and Thy bitter passion,
For my salvation.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay Thee,
I do adore Thee, and will ever pray Thee,
Think on Thy pity and Thy love unswerving,
Not my deserving.

It is a wonderful hymn I’ve never had the chance to sing before, and having the time to study the text as we sang each verse allowed me the time to contemplate what its meaning. Nothing Jesus did brought the suffering of the cross down upon Him. Instead, He willingly laid down His life for my salvation. Nothing I did earned it, and there is nothing I can do to earn it. That’s why I praise Him!

After the hymn, a member of the church read Matthew 26:57-75, which chronicle Christ’s mistreatment in the Sanhedrin and the three denials of Peter, and then we sang one of my favorite hymns, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

The next few portions of the service were very moving for me, as they alternated between the reading of Scripture and musical recitations of what was said. Each time a person read a passage, he or she extinguished a candle on either side of the pulpit, and the lights in the room were dimmed slightly. It represented the progression of Jesus through the trials of the cross, the world growing dimmer until darkness covered the earth.

Matthew 27:11-26, the trial before Pontius Pilate, was read and followed by “He is Death Guilty,” the first movement of Thomas Dubois’ The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And the people clamored: He is death-guilty; take Him, take Him! Let us crucify Him! Be His blood on us and on our children! Then they did crucify Jesus, and the two thieves, one at His right hand and the other at His left hand.

The Scripture took on a musical form, the chaos of the moment represented in the multiple moving lines and gradually increasing tempo and dynamic level. We only heard it presented with choir and organ, but the effect was dramatic all the same.

After that, Matthew 27:27-31, the scourging and mocking of Jesus, was recited and “He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions”” by Carl Heinrich Graun was sung.

He was wounded for our transgressions and for our iniquities. He was bruised for our inquities. The chastisement that brought us peace was on Him. And with His stripes we are healed.

I’ve read the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion hundreds of times, but for some reason, hearing it read and then paired with this song brought tears to my eyes. I could see the crown of thorns on His head and hear the mocking He endured at the hands of the Roman soldiers. It pained me, as did the thought of the reed in His right hand being used to strike my Savior, driving the thorns into His brow. The depth of His love for us is truly indescribable.

Matthew 27:33-50, the crucifixion of Jesus, was followed by “Thou Wouldst Feign Destroy the Temple” and “Christ, We Do All Adore Thee,” both from The Seven Last Words of Christ.

And the Jews then passing by Him, all did rail upon Him, and wagging their heads at Him, they said unto Him: Ah! Thou wouldst fain destroy the temple; if thou be Jesus, Son of the Father, now fro the cross descend thou, that we behold it, and believe on thee when we behold it. If thou are king over Israel, save thyself then!

(Fast forward to about 2:35 in to hear the correct portion.) 

Christ, we do all adore Thee, and we do praise Theeforever, for on the holy cross has thou the world from sin redeemed.

After that, the room was utterly dimmed and the Christ candle, alone in the center of the room, just above the table where the Lord’s Supper elements had been served, was extinguished.

We finished with an acapella rendition of “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”, an African American spiritual that I adore.

 

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when the crucified my Lord? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Oh, sometimes it causes me tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?

Finally, the service ended with the tolling of three bells in the balcony and a silent dispersion of the congregation. No one said a word leaving the church or walking to our cars. Wayne and I passed by the cross out front of the church, and we stood there for a moment when we noticed that the purple cloth that had been draped around it had been changed to black. It was truly a solemn moment of reflection. However, my heart was not overly burdened because there is the joy of expectation. After all, the tomb where they laid Him is not the end of the story, is it?

Today is Good Friday, the day many churches observe the same events chronicled in the Maundy Thursday service we attended, and because of the quiet solemnity of that service, I am recharged and ready to lead people tonight, to allow them the time to contemplate the events that mark the end of Holy Week.

Take a listen to this presentation, titled “It’s Friday….but Sunday’s Coming” and, for a moment, think about the awe inspiring power of God and the love that set you free. May this Easter be one of renewal for you as it was for us; may you truly recognize the sheer magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice for mankind and once again commit yourselves to serve the risen Lord!

How Firm a Foundation: The Grace to Worship Through Uncertainty

This is the first draft of an article I’m writing for August. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Are there areas that are unclear or could use a tightening up? Do you think the Scriptures I’ve selected are the best possible options. It’s a musical article, so if you’re a non-musician, does it still “speak” to you? More than anything, I want to tell the world about two of the most special people in my life, but I also want to show readers how they can learn as I have from their example. Any and all feedback would be very much appreciated! Thank you!!

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Not every couple can say their first date took place at a gospel singing, but that’s precisely where my grandparents, Boyce and Sybil Lindley, chose to have theirs in the summer of 1955. Perhaps it was chosen because music was what brought them together at a district church meeting where Sybil played the piano, or maybe God knew how vital it would be and chose it as the cornerstone of their relationship. Whatever the reason, I’m happy to say that it worked—so well, in fact, that after only a handful of dates and a brief engagement, they were wed on December 14, 1956.

Throughout their fifty-five years of marriage, they’ve spent countless happy hours in church together, singing, studying, and serving in various roles like church bookkeepers and Sunday school teachers. While they occasionally sought out the role of worship leaders, more times than not, it was a task was appointed to them. My favorite story about their years as musicians happened during their first visit to a new church in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Like most visitors, they sat in the back row with their two daughters, taking in the place and its people, when the pastor welcomed them from the pulpit. He asked, “Ma’am, you don’t happen to play the piano, do you?” The church had been without an accompanist for some time, so you can imagine that my grandmother’s gentle “yes” was met with an exuberant chorus of hallelujahs and amens fit to rival Handel’s Messiah. She played that very Sunday morning, and nearly every service afterwards, until the week they moved.

By the time I came along in the late 70s, our family was full to bursting with music. We sang each Sunday in church (though never the third verse of any hymn for some reason I could never understand), and they often performed songs together as a quartet someone dubbed “The Happy Lindleys” after their favorite group, the Goodman Family. Whether we were riding in the car or sitting together after dinner, we usually sang. Someone would simply start humming, and within a verse or two we were harmonizing together. Granted, we might never have been a threat to the Von Trapp family, but our melodies were genuine, tangible expressions of our joy and thankfulness to God for each other. Singing might have seemed odd to many, but it was—and still remains—as much a part of our genetic make-up as brown eyes, long fingers, and a penchant for peskiness.

Because of their influence, when it came to music, I learned not to discriminate. Traditional hymns, Southern gospel songs, and spirituals all spoke God’s truth to me in ways I could grasp as a child. For instance, I understood Lamentations 3:22-24 because I had experienced “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” I rejoiced in the promise of Psalm 16:8 after learning “I Shall Not Be Moved,” and “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” fixed the truth of Matthew 10:29-31 deeply in my heart. Simply put, I came to know God with a Bible in one hand and a hymnal in the other.

These two wonderful people, who I nicknamed Nonnie and Papaw, have spent their lives walking with the Lord. They’ve been blessed with two happily married daughters and three grandchildren as well as with relatively good health and financial security. They’ll be the first to say there have been more than a few potholes and loose stones in their lives’ road, and they’ve been asked to make sacrifices in trusting obedience. However, each time, God provided, and their faith was increased. Boons like this make praise natural to come by for most people, but when things suddenly turn difficult, preserving the song in one’s heart might become more challenging.

Last year, Papaw believed he’d lost his debit card after cleaning out his wallet. A handful of panicked moments later, he realized the slim piece of plastic was still there—just backwards and upside down. He simply had not recognized it for what it was because of the visual differences. It didn’t look the same in its usual slot and, in his mind, was missing in action. At the time, they chalked it up to vision problems or fatigue, but several weeks later, he couldn’t remember his pin number. As weeks became months, they both began to notice words and phrases he’d known all his life—screwdriver, double play, bookmark—were suddenly gone from his vocabulary, frustratingly just out of his mind’s reach. Multi-step tasks such as making tea became nearly impossible without help, and items that normally called the pantry home started showing up in the linen closet.

Each thing was small, sometimes even comical, but when they were added together, they realized there was growing cause for concern. Naturally, fear and worry filled their hearts, but every time it threatened, they prayed and recited Isaiah 41:10: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Whatever was happening, they reasoned, had been purposed by God for their lives because He had promised them countless times before, “No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent” (Ps. 91:10).

Anyone who has been diagnosed with an illness—be it physical or mental—will admit it’s unsettling. Many feel their bodies have betrayed them or have become inescapable prisons of flesh. For someone like Papaw, who is gentle and easily flustered, when those moments when the words wouldn’t come became more frequent, he was left silently anxious and shaking with frustration. Ever the optimist, Nonnie tried to reassure him with soothing words and kind gestures, but nothing seemed to quiet the apprehension that held him captive. One particularly wearisome Thursday when nothing else would help, Nonnie pulled their tattered maroon copy of the Church of God Hymnbook from the piano bench and began to play. It was all she knew to do. Over the next hour, songs like “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” “Rock of Ages,” “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” and “Mansion Over the Hilltop” quietly seeped from the burnished wood, filling their home with comforting and familiar sounds.

As her fingers coaxed “He Hideth My Soul,” a song she’s played countless times, from the instrument, she began to pray for strength, understanding, and, most of all, peace. In time, the words came to Papaw—sometimes easily, sometimes with great difficulty, and oftentimes imperfectly—but they came. She listened as he sweetly stumbled through the second verse, “A wonderful Savior is Jesus, my Lord. He taketh my burden away. He holdeth me up, and I shall not be moved. He giveth me strength as my day” and understood that, despite all outward appearances, God was with them and always had been. They had just been too busy focusing on the uncertain darkness to even begin to look for His light.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers stated, “Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him. Songbirds are taught to sing in the dark, and God puts us into ‘the shadow of His hand’ until we learn to hear Him” (Isa. 49:2). Now, that is exactly what they’re doing, walking in relative darkness and singing all the way. “Whenever our spiritual cups get dry,” she told me, “we just sing until they’re filled up again.”

Hebrews 12:10-11 tells us that God “disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Their spiritual strength, gained through previous hardships, makes worship possible, and while they are being further refined by this trial, our entire family is reaping spiritual rewards as well. As we watch them lean fully on the Lord for strength and wisdom, we are all coming to see the truth of Job’s declaration, “Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty” (Job 3:17).

Just like the hymns I cherished as a child, my grandparents’ songs reveal the truth of God’s Word. Their simple melodies have shaped my understanding of His grace and make it real to me in way words alone couldn’t. They wake up each morning, uncertain of the new challenges they’ll face, but they are quick to point out, “Our heavenly Father knows.” Rather than worry, they pray for the measure of strength to help them until they lie down once again and thank God for the continuous supply. Like Job, they pose the rhetorical question, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (2:10), letting their song serve as a reply.

Not once have they asked, “Why us?” without immediately following it with, “Why not us?” because their hearts are in tune with God’s. They’ve spent so many years fully immersed in His presence that they speak to Him in song—their groanings are lyrical rather than wordless (Rom. 8:26-27). I feel the same tendency in myself, and I know that the Lord is using them to teach me the libretto of His love. To “put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise” (Ps. 40:3), the same almighty Composer is arranging both the coda of their lives and the second movement of mine.


 

Standards, People! Standards!!!

I saw this image making the rounds on Facebook this week, and while I chuckled about it upon first viewing, it got me to thinking about something that is more than a little disturbing. Our standards for entertainment have certainly gone downhill over the last century. To use a food metaphor, it’s like we’ve gone from dining at 21 and sipping a ’47 Cheval Blanc to grazing at Golden Corral and chugging box wine. Yeah, I think it’s that bad.

Don’t get me wrong—every decade has horrible music, wretched movies, and positively terrible books. Whether it’s Ishtar, Twilight, “Achy Breaky Heart,” BJ and the Bear, or Sam the Sham, every decade has a veritable cornucopia of artistic endeavors that it wishes had never seen the light of day. Also, each generation also has a few genuine stars whose talent is obvious, even to the least discerning connoisseur of popular culture. I’m not saying that there were no bad actors in the early decades of the twentieth century or that a talented singer can’t be found today, but when you look at the facts, it’s hard to argue that our standards have descended from top shelf to well status. (I know it’s another food metaphor. I can’t help it.)

Since the picture compared Old Blue Eyes and The Bieb (even the former entertainer’s nickname is better!), I thought I’d start with music to see what I could learn from record sales and data. I decided to go with four decades (the 1940s, 1960s, 1980s, and the 2000s) for purposes of comparison. I chose an arbitrary year (the third) from each decade, and took at look at the songs that were number one on the week of my birthday. Here’s what I found.

Number one song on April 21:

1943–“I’ve Heard That Song Before” by Harry James & Helen Forrest

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1963–“I Will Follow Him” by Little Peggy March

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1983–“Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners

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2003–“In Da Club” by 50 Cent

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Listen to the first and the fourth and tell me there isn’t a marked difference between them, both in subject matter and style. Actual instruments and the skill it took to play them were required for the former, and the lyrics are delightful.

It seems to me I’ve heard that song before.
It’s from an old familiar score.
I know it well, that melody.

It’s funny how a theme
recalls a favorite dream,
a dream that brought you so close to me.

I know each word because I’ve heard that song before.
The lyrics said, “Forevermore.”
Forevermore’s a memory.

Please have them play it again,
and then I’ll remember just when
I heard that lovely song before.

It’s slightly melancholy, reminiscent of “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca (which also happens to be the film that won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1943.) It’s nothing fancy, but there is a message to the song, a bit of symbolism and lovely language. Compare that to the first few verses of “In Da Club.”

Go, go, go, go, go, go.

Go shawty, it’s your birthday.
We gonna party like it’s your birthday.
We gonna sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday.
And you know we don’t give a f*** it’s not your birthday.

You can find me in the club, bottle full of bub.
Look mami, I got the ex if you into takin’ drugs.
I’m into havin’ sex; I ain’t into makin’ love.
So come gimme a hug if you’re into gettin’ rubbed.

When I pull up out front, you see the Benz on dubs.
When I roll 20 deep, it’s 20 knives in the club.
N****** heard I f*** with Dre, now they wanna show me love.
When you sell like Eminem, the hos they wanna f***.

So, in sixty years we went from love songs to ones filled with references to sex and drugs as well as foul language. I can say, without hesitation, that 50 Cent’s masterpiece has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, yet he sold 872,000 albums in five days when the album it was on was released.

I have to wonder if music like this sells because we’ve actually fallen so far or because people simply don’t know that something better is out there. Perhaps I’m the anomaly–the freak of nature nowadays–because I was raised by parents who introduced me to classical music, television shows that were funny without relying on anything raunchy, and movies that actually had plots and clever dialogue. Who knows.

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Since both Sinatra and Bieber have both tried their hands at acting, I thought about comparing the ranks of thespians from the same four eras to see if the same slow decay was working its way through Hollywood. Based on the number of films each made as well as the awards and paychecks they garnered, According to a website called Top Ten Reviews, the following ten actors rank as the top tier in each decade. Their ranking was determined by fan feedback as well as the number of films each made and the awards and paychecks they garnered as a result. They are listed in rank from first to tenth:

1940s–Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Jean Arthur, Irene Dunn, Cary Grant, Teresa Wright, Myrna Loy, Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart, and James Stewart

1960s–Julie Andrews, Audrey Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Peter O’Toole, Shani Wallace, Natalie Wood, Vincent Price, Sean Connery, Burt Lancaster, and John Wayne

1980s–Harrison Ford, Barbara Hershey, Eddie Murphy, Mia Farrow, Shelly Duvall, Robert De Niro, Kathleen Turner, Woody Allen, Geena Davis, and Kim Griest.

2000s–Kate Blanchette, Emma Watson, George Clooney, Katherine Zeta-Jones, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johanson, Daniel Radcliff, and Renee Zellwegger

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There are some oddballs on there. I know Michael Caine made the list this decade for the Batman movies alone (notice he’s right under Christian Bale). And I cannot even begin to explain how Vincent Price ranked above Sean Connery and John Wayne in the 60s. However, by and large, I’ll say that these lists are fairly accurate cross sections of who was hot in a given ten-year period.

People always want to compare George Clooney to Cary Grant, and while I admit that they do look rather similar, I can’t imagine living in a world where I would choose the former over the latter.

Grant was the more versatile leading man. Compare the role of reporter each man played in His Girl Friday and Good Night and Good Luck if you don’t believe me. Grant was also the one with better comedic timing and style, which a quick comparison of Father Goose and O Brother, Where Art Thou? will reveal.

The same is true for leading ladies. Katherine Zeta-Jones (one of the more well-rounded actors in the list) can’t hold a candle to Ingrid Bergman for beauty and style, and if you want sultry, look no further than Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not with Humphrey Bogart (her future hubby) instead of Scarlett Johanson in The Black Dahlia.

Just fast forward to about five minutes in and watch the “whistle” section if you don’t believe me. Then compare it to this brief clip. To me, Johanson is like a little girl playing dress up, and her sex appeal feels so forced compared to Bacall’s.

Name me one actor working today who is a legitimate triple threat. (Don’t count Broadway stars. I’ve always felt that theater audiences, for the most part, have more exacting standards.) Honestly, can anyone in Hollywood today hold a candle to Gene Kelly?

How about Julie Andrews?

I don’t go to the movies as much as I used to for a couple of reasons. The cost of an average ticket is $11.00, and I’m not willing to pay that much for sub-par entertainment. Sure, while I do prefer more cerebral fare, I’ll admit that I’m as excited about the upcoming Avengers movie as your average fan girl and truly enjoyed the silliness of The Muppet Movie. However, anyone who tells me One for the Money or Underworld: Awakening are actually worth the cost of admission, I’d have to say, “Baby, baby, baby noooooooo.”

Am I way off base with this? I’d love to hear your thoughts on music, movies, and anything else pop culture!

A Sublime Coalescence of Sound

My husband and I, because of our shared love of music, decided to splurge this year and purchase a package of six concert tickets from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra so we could enjoy some of our favorite pieces and perhaps discover a few new ones. Our first concert was a perfect starter as it featured selections from The Ring of the Nibelung by Richard Wagner and Ludwig van Beethoven’s immortal Symphony No. 9. As a trombone player who relishes powerful melodic lines and bass parts that are heavier than potato and knockwurst suppers, Wayne naturally adores Wagner (and Mahler…and pretty much anyone else who is of Germanic descent and writes music featuring brass instruments).  As a French horn player, I can enjoy chamber music as easily as opera, and I am often treated to a stunning performance by someone on my instrument at every performance I attend. However, I must say that I prefer the powerful and dramatic works of the romantic composers, and I especially love the ninth for its history and the political turmoil that played into its creation. (Check out this book I read if you’d like to learn more about it yourself!) We began the afternoon with a lovely supper at Cafe Intermezzo that involved a huge slice of peanut butter chocolate cake and espresso and ended with sweet harmony. It was a true delight!

Edgar Allan Poe

After a dinner of Jambalaya and Shrimp Etouffee at Front Page News, we headed to the Woodruff Arts Center for our second concert, which featured Nyx, a new composition by Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Le Poème de l’extase (The Poem of Ecstacy, Symphony No. 4) by Alexander Scriabin. Both pieces are, as one would expect, marvelous. However, the reason I chose this particular concert was the third selection for the evening—The Bells by Sergei Rachmaninov. I have always wanted to learn more about him as a composer, and I thought it was a bonus for a word nerd like myself to be introduced to him via a piece that came about because of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe of the same name. Having taught it before, I knew all about Poe’s use of onomatopoeia and other poetic devices to create the sounds of different types of bells and explore their symbolic meanings. It’s a poem that almost begs to be sung from the page, and I was excited to see how it would sound in the hands of a master like Rachmaninov.

Sergei Rachmaninov

Like the poem, the choral symphony, is composed of four parts, each of which feature the sound of a distinct type of bell–silver sleigh bells, golden wedding bells, loud alarm bells, and mournful iron bells. Notice they move from light and jovial to dark and morose, a true chronicle of the cradle to the grave. While Poe’s poem is the inspiration of this piece and though some of the same concepts are presented in it, the words in the libretto are wholly the composer’s. (If you would like to listen to each movement while reading the remainder of the blog, please feel free! I have also included the English translation of the words for you to explore.)

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Movement I—Allegro non ma troppo (The Silver Sleigh Bells)

This movement opens with a jaunty, crisp feel full of bells and other percussion, flute trills, and muted trumpet. (It honestly sounded like the inside of a snow globe might when you shake it.) The horns and other brass round out the introduction and then give way to the tenor soloist who enters faintly, his voice growing in volume, to tell us “The sleighs rush along in a line.” And then, oh mercy, an absolute brick wall of sound erupts when the entire choir joins him to tell the story of the silver sleigh bells! The chord they form is massive, rich as chocolate ganache, and I swear it blew my hair back even all the way in the balcony where are seats were. The movement then alternates between the gossamer opening to the more mellow section in which the soloist sings of the delight that follows in death when the “days of delusion” are over and we travel into the bliss of oblivion. Finally, he ends on a climactic note of triumph.

In the concluding bars, the orchestra gives the audience a taste of the sweet tranquility of that place by using long, fluid lines in the string section and light touches of flute and oboe to accent it like the delightful twinkling of the stars. The entire piece ends with a sort of rocking movement that’s hard to describe, but it gently lulled me back down from the peak, almost as if someone was rocking me to sleep. Filled with gorgeous similes, clever onomatopoetic words like “twinkling” and “flickering,” repetition, and personification, this movement is, at the risk of sounding cliche, magical.

Movement II—Lento (The Mellow Wedding Bells)

I love pieces of music that feature the viola, the most maligned of all stringed instruments. This one opens with them and eventually gives way to muted trumpets, cello, and then the string section as a whole recapturing the rocking feeling that the first movement ended with. It’s strangely mellow and pensive for a piece about a wedding, but I actually found it more moving because of this. After all, a wedding is not just a ceremony; it is the physical union of two people who are joined together in flesh and heart. It is a spiritual commitment as well as a physical one that we are never meant to break until death, so why not speak of it in terms of eternity? The words tell of the moon and “fairytale delights” the couple will soon enjoy as well as the “serenity of sweet dreams” they’ll share in the “harmony” of marriage. The soprano soloist in this is a perfect choice; her voice soars over the choir in an attempt to capture the thoughts of a bride who is listening to those bells waiting for her groom to arrive. In short, this movement captures the feeling of rapture that comes with true and all-encompassing love.

Movement III—Presto (The Loud Alarum Bells)

Movement three is the only one that doesn’t feature a solo—not that it needs one! If it is possible to capture cacophony in music, to replicate the feeling of chaos in sound, this is it. The piece opens much like movement one with flittering brass and strings, but the French horn enters with beautiful bell tones that the trumpets soon echo, and it builds from there. The alarm bells desperately warn people about the approaching fire that they cannot stop. Rachmaninov describes them in such human terms that he actually invokes the pathetic fallacy—they groan, beg for help, weep for mercy, and feel grief. Likewise, the fire expresses its desire to climb to the very reaches of the sky before it is extinguished. I love the placement of this movement after the sweet movement that symbolizes youth and the golden movement of marriage. After all, when does tragedy often strike? When we are least expecting it. It honestly made me think of Job 5:6-7, which reads:

For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, for man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward.

The contrast between the previous movement, which is actually rather intimate in nature, and the communal experience of chaos in this piece is striking. You feel as if you, too, are part of the scene–that your life, your home, and your very way of life are being threatened.

The ending measures are the most amazing of the entire portion. The chorus sings about waves of sound, the bells ringing and telling of the misfortune that is coming for them all. The waves are a fantastic choice symbolically speaking. After all, misfortune and good fortune do come in waves; they are both part of the natural ebb and flow of life. Also, the tide is a powerful force, one that cannot be controlled or contained. It is a fitting ending for a piece such as this.

Movement IV—Lento lugubre (The Mournful Iron Bells)

Oh, movement four! Be still my heart! I listened to this one with my hand wrapped around Wayne’s arm because I found it so moving. This is the funeral portion full of iron bells that tell of the death of one in the community. It opens with an oboe solo atop a palate of languid strings. (On a side note, I adore the oboe because, like the cello, it’s such an expressive, sensual instrument. It’s a perfect choice for this section.) The gentle sway of this piece when the bass soloist enters is reminiscent of a funeral march, a gentle walking on weary feet. It felt as if you were standing by watching the procession but are carried away with it, as if compelled to see where it ends—the grave.

Take a moment and re-read the most stunning lines of text in the entire piece:

In the belfry’s rusty cells, for the righteous and the unrighteous, it menacingly repeats a single thing: that there will be a stone on your heart, that your eyes will close in sleep.

I actually gasped when I read that section and heard it sung. The “stone” is speaks of is, of course, the tombstone, the one laid atop the grave. However, the image when paired with the booming voice of the soloist made it feel utterly ponderous. I could actually feel the weight of it pressing on my chest, as if I was experiencing a sort of death by proxy through the music.

It is Death personified ringing the mournful bell, swinging wildly and rejoicing over another brought into his grip. Those who hear run “from their pastimes” and weep knowing that such a bell will invariably ring for them in the fullness of time. However, Rachmaninov does not leave the entire piece with a negative mood because “at length” the bells proclaim “the peace of the grave.” The closing measures build into a peaceful postlude in the strings, harp, and clarinet and end on a glorious major chord that fades out into silence. (By the way, when you hear this live, there are moments where the orchestra and choir cut off, leaving the tones to fade and blend into the silence, and those moments are surreal. There is sound remaining though no one is producing it. Go hear it for yourself!)

Through this symphony, the listener can experience a wide range of emotions from rapt wonder and joy to panic and, eventually, peace. Rachmaninov masterfully leads listeners through them movement by movement, allowing them to experience something akin to the catharsis the ancient Greek dramatists sought. It combines the thoughts of Poe and one of his most musical poems with the methods of expression available to a musician, and becomes a sublime coalescence of sound.

A Horn By Any Other Name…

For those of you who aren’t musicians or who don’t put a great amount of time in “behind the mouthpiece” as we say, you might not realize just how intimate the relationship between a musician and her instrument truly is. Much like one does with a spouse, a musician soon realizes her instrument’s likes and dislikes as well as its tendencies. For example, a certain kind of valve oil may be the only one that keeps everything in working order, or a musician learns to compensate for a certain sticky key for so long that she eventually avoids fixing it. Yes, there is a special bond formed between a musician and the instrument that serves to express the outpourings of her to the world.

Just as many people name their cars, so, too, do many musicians name their instruments. (My yellow Xterra is named “Bumblebee” after my all-time favorite Transformer in case you’re curious.) Some of the names are boring, others bizarre. Many were earned and come with a story to justify the choice. And there are some that simply are so non-sequitur that they cannot be explained. For example, my husband’s first trombone, “Rosie,” earned the moniker because her bell had a rosy colored sheen when polished. Another friend had a tuba he named “Bubba” after the character in Forest Gump because that’s what he said his lips felt like after a long rehearsal. (Don’t blame me if you think that’s racist. I’m just passing the story along!) 🙂 A student I met at Oberlin who played the trumpet named his retinue of them after characters from Lord of the Rings, but I only remember that he dubbed the piccolo trumpet “Frodo” and the Flugelhorn “Gimli.”

Connor. Betsy Ross. Killer. Natty Bumppo. Polly. Starbuck. Subzero. Herbert. Snort. The Grinch. Mahalia. The Dark Lady. Yoko Ono. Salsa Verde. The list could go on and on, and each one would be as unique as the person and the machine she wields.

Because musicians are like crazy cat ladies and one is usually never enough, most players I know have at least two instruments in their homes. While some are obvious pairings such as a flute and a piccolo or an English horn and an oboe, most simply have horns for different purposes. Yes, like Bruce Wayne and Batman and the disparate personalities they represent, some musicians can channel symphonic music only through one and must play jazz in another. Ask them why, and they’ll tell you about the range of each, the sound each produces, the tone each lends to a particular tune. They’ll tell you one “understands” a little better than the other or that one “wants it more.” Don’t panic when they tell you this; they’re not crazy. They’re just musicians…and that means they probably haven’t eaten a good meal in awhile.

So, you’re probably thinking, what’s your instrument look like, and what’s its name? Well, ladies and gents, without further ado, I give you my French horn…

Ain’t he a looker?

This is the only French horn I own, and he has been a part of my life since my sophomore year in college. The first reason is because, well, there are twenty-two feet of twisted tubing in the average horn, and they’re pretty difficult to make. That means they’re expensive. A good one will cost you anywhere from $2,500 to “I don’t even want to know.” (I’ve seen one listed at $8,000!) My horn professor in college brokered a deal for me with one of the horn players in the Atlanta symphony back in 1998, and I shelled out a whopping $3,500 for him. (Yes, it is a him. I’m getting to why in a minute.)

Also, in case you are unaware, the French horn is universally considered to be the most difficult instrument to play (be it woodwind or brass), and the oboe comes in a close second. Most schools have one sitting in a storage closet waiting for a player, and many teachers convert a trumpet or flute player when they need a warm body to attempt it. Every time I showed up at a new school, there was a great, often minimally used, instrument for me to play.

I remember the day the gigantic box containing my very own horn arrived at our house. I pulled it out frantically, sending a shower of packing peanuts across the kitchen floor, and laid the case out. Let it be ugly, I thought. I know this seems odd, but I’ve always found that instruments that other people deem unattractive often produce the best sound. Typically, they’re older. They’ve been places. They’ve seen how the world works. And like a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, they know how to make good stuff.

Naturally, I was thrilled when I got him. Just look!

A girl and her horn

If you’re interested in some of the details, I can tell you that this French horn was manufactured by a German company called Hans Hoyer. I have yet to discern what model it is because I cannot find a serial number anywhere on it. The company’s logo is even obscured because the musician who bought it had the bell converted to detach. Yep, the bell comes off, which makes transport a cinch. However, it’s impossible to get the back third slide out when the bell is on. Hence, the same musician also had a spit valve put on. (If you’re a French horn player, you have no idea how valuable that thing is when you’re in a hurry! I can’t live without it now.) The top weld never holds correctly, so I’ve secured it with a little tape. Classy, huh? The thumb trigger is unlike any I have ever seen before, and, as you can plainly see, the horn is not lacquered. It has no shiny covering that usually attracts people to an instrument.

It’s a student horn, but seriously? Hot pink?

Yes, by comparison, my horn is a little…if you’ll forgive the pun…lackluster. And I have to admit that when my husband and I were planning on a photography shoot involving both our instruments, he was not my first choice. I borrowed a friend’s horn that would photograph better. (Hangs head in shame.)

My French horn, despite my great love for it, did not have a name until recently. However, after some deliberation, I decided to give him a moniker befitting his character….Rochester.

Yes, I named my instrument after a character in my favorite book of all time, Jane Eyre. For those of you who have never read the book (shame on you), Mr. Rochester is the broody, Byronic hero and love interest of little, plain Jane. He is not attractive in the traditional sense, but he is mesmerizing all the same. Here, I’ll let Charlotte Bronte do the talking. Here’s how Jane describes her beau in a few words…

Most true is it that ‘beauty is in the eye of the gazer.’ My master’s colorless, olive face, square, massive brow, broad and jetty eyebrows, deep eyes, strong features, firm, grim mouth,–all energy, decision, will,–were not beautiful, according to rule; but they were more than beautiful to me: they were full of an interest, an influence that quite mastered me,–that took my feelings from my own power and fettered them in his. I had not intended to love him: the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of him, they spontaneously revived, green and strong! He made me love him without looking at me.

This is how Rochester describes himself in one of his weaker moments…

Nature meant me to be, on the whole, a good man, Miss Eyre; one of the better kind, and you see I am not so. You would say you don’t see it; at least I flatter myself I read as much in your eye (beware, by-the-bye, what you express with that organ; I am quick at interpreting its language). Then take my word for it, — I am not a villain: you are not to suppose that — not to attribute to me any such bad eminence; but, owing, I verily believe, rather to circumstances than to my natural bent, I am a trite commonplace sinner, hackneyed in all the poor petty dissipations with which the rich and worthless try to put on life.

Rochester, on the whole, is one of the most hard-to-love and impossible-to-resist characters in literature. He’s dark, he has a past as well as a temper, and, above all else, he’s passionate. There’s a richness and a a depth to him that many heroes in other novels lack. He’s scuffed up and worn around the edges because life hasn’t been kind. However, the depths of his heart are seemingly endless, and there’s something about him that is wounded and vulnerable as well.

Me and the hubby playing a duet last Christmas

My French horn has the same look and, more importantly, the dark sound that comes out when I play (which makes me sound a lot more talented than I really am by the way) makes me think of the character after whom it’s named. Sonorous, pensive, and rich–it is all that and more. I’ll never be able to play it as well as I’d like or as well as it deserves. Perhaps my horn by any other name would sound as sweet, but I doubt it.

How about you? Is there a special object–an instrument, car, or something else–that you love and have given a special name? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Pictures are great, too!!

For those of you who have never heard a French horn, I give you my favorite horn solo of all time–the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony (Andante Cantabile).

Lost at C

Alright boys and squirrels, this one is going to take some explanation.

I recently visited the High Museum here in Atlanta, and I walked around the corner to find the installation piece titled Windward Coast by Radcliffe Bailey. At first, the sheer size of it caught me off guard; it filled one of the larger spaces on the second floor of the museum by itself! However, despite its size, it contained very few elements. Unlike his other pieces, which were mixed media and contained everything from fishing line to glitter drenched construction paper and old photos, Windward Coast was stark by comparison. The description posted on the wall informed me that what I was looking at contained nothing more than “piano keys, a plaster bust, glitter, and a shell with sound.”

The description also informed viewers the intention of the piece, what it was meant to convey. (Yes, I am aware that what an author or artist intends to say is meaningless to discuss because we all experience art and come away with different interpretations. I’ll not argue that here as this piece is direct proof of that fact.) The title of Mr. Bailey’s entire collection was titled Memory as Medicine, and it was his attempt to connect with his immediate and distant past as a black man, a soul abruptly uprooted because of the evils of slavery. The plaster bust, glittering and black in the spotlight floats amid a huge “sea” of piano keys that are arranged to replicate moving water and crashing waves.

I had to admit as I looked at it a second, third, and fourth time that the piece was impressive. However, when I sat huddled in the corner to examine it and take notes, I was able to see the keys  at eye level. Some were tipped with plastic, others with something darker (perhaps bone or ivory), and black keys, those glorious half steps, were intermingled with white. It was then that I got to thinking about the pianos themselves–their guts lying on the floor. What kind of pianos had these keys come from? What kind of “lives” had they led?

Which sat in cold parlors or warm family rooms? How many of them proudly bore the family manger scene at Christmas? How many had the pleasure of enjoying two family members playing them together or been a part of a child’s musical education all the way from “Hot Cross Buns” to more challenging pieces? Had someone fallen in love near one or spent an hour in solace using it? How many had been given up willingly, and how many were sold out of desperation or ignorance as to their true value?

The more I thought about it, the more I saw a parallel between the pianos and the slave floating in them. They, too, were displaced, stripped of their meaning, value, and voice! That’s what bothered me the most about the piece–all the stories of pianos and the families who owned them floating in there that could no longer be told. Theirs were stories worthy of attention, too, and they had been cancelled out to create this installation.

I was planning on writing a free verse piece to mimic the chaos of the sea of keys, but the more I thought it over, I came to see that a fixed verse poem was more appropriate. To make something orderly out of something chaotic, to give meaning to something so disjointed, I would have to try something requiring rules.

I didn’t want to rhyme or be stuck by a meter, so I chose the challenge presented by the sestina. Please take a moment to read the link here if you’d like to know more about this form.

Essentially, the poet must choose six words and repeat them at the end of each line. I chose sea/see/C (homonyms, homophones, and homographs are fair game), keys, tone, master, wood/would, and sound. The first stanza is A,B,C,D,E,F. You then repeat that pattern, using the last word in one stanza as the first in the next. For example, if you look at stanza two, you’ll see that tone (my F word) is the end word of that new line. That stanza is ordered F,A,E,B,D,C, and so on and so forth it goes until all six stanza are complete.

The envoy, the three line stanza that closes a sestina, includes all six words in three lines. They do not have to be at the exact end, but you must use the B and E words in line one, the D and C words in line two, and the F and A words in line three. (However, some poets change that up and use the six words in whatever order they prefer).

It’s difficult because of the repeated words that create a sort of internal rhyme structure. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s a solid start. I’ve not written a complete sestina on my own before this, so that’s progress!

Please read and comment. Let me know what you think!

***

Lost at C

A Sestina Inspired After Viewing Windward Coast by Radcliffe Bailey

The gallery floor lies buried beneath a sea

of writhing, cacophonous keys.

In the distance, as if discarded by his master,

a slave’s head bobs without a sound

amid the endless waves of splintered wood.

His suffering sets the tone.


But I’m left longing for the tone

that sounds when striking middle C,

the note among all others that would

help me place my fingers on correct keys.

A familiar place, safe and sound

on the instrument I longed to master.


In how many homes was it the master,

the symbol of domesticity? In tones

of chestnut and mahogany, the sound

made by each was like the sea,

rhythmic as a metronome, as key

to the security of its home as the roof or the wood.


If not for this artistic creation before me, how many would

still remain in the hands of a master

who’d polish its surface and clean each key,

tune it to maintain those harmonious tones,

relish the marriage of hammer and string, and the delicate C

atop the eighty-eight orderly architects of sound?


Would someone open the lid to release the sound

and the family history locked within the wood?

Would a starving soul sit on its bench once again and see

that while time is something we can never master

we can preserve memory in the mind’s sepia tones

and in sacred objects like a piano, those that are key


to understand our parts in life’s symphony? From key

signature to coda, from downbeat to the sound

of the final fermata, our pasts set the tone

for all that was, that is, and that ever would

be. None of us live lives made from a master,

without uniqueness, our own variation in C.


Knowing this is key to what otherwise would

be a sound failure. One cannot master his past

by stripping another of his tone and using it to create the sea.

The Voice of God

I want to begin this post by saying that I am not an expert in musical theory. I took two or so semesters of it in college, and struggled throughout every single moment of it. (I did, however, earn an A in both Theory I and Theory II, which is a testament to my scholastic work ethic!) I’m all ears if you have websites, videos, or books you know of that can help me learn terms to better explain what I’m about to say.

Ok, disclaimer over. Let the blog begin…

People are always saying, “The Lord told me” or “I heard the Lord say,” which strikes me odd. I’ve never sat down and had a conversation with the Almighty, but I can tell you that He does “speak” to those who are willing to listen. Some hear His voice when they look on a beautiful landscape; others find Him in the order of nature and its creatures and cycles. I have come to find that God speaks to me through music in two ways. The first is through the sheer beauty of song. Music used for worship lifts me up out of myself and connects me to Him in a way that words (my other great love) simply cannot. It reaches me on a more unvarnished, vulnerable level on which artifice and masks are unnecessary.

Take the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s masterwork, Messiah, for instance.

Everyone knows it, has maybe even sung it either for fun or for a performance, but not very many people know about the oratorio as a whole. Messiah is divided into three parts. The first tells of the prophecy of the Messiah in the book of Isaiah and extends through the annunciation of His birth to the shepherds. The second tells of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension as well as the spread of the Gospel around the world, and the third tells of the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven. The “Hallelujah Chorus” occurs at the end of part two, and in the scene before it, the people of the world have rejected the Gospel and have instead chosen to battle it and one another. However, when this piece begins, the gates of heaven have opened where all can see Christ glorified.

The people you see standing up in the audience are doing so in keeping with the tradition supposedly begun when King George II first heard it performed in London. According to musical lore, the king was so moved by the revelation he heard that he stood up early in the chorus and remained on his feet throughout the piece. Whether or not it is true, folks who know their musical history stand from the moment the piece begins. It’s a great tradition, regardless of whether or not it’s totally accurate. If there was ever a moment worthy of getting to one’s feet, this is it, my friends!

***

The other thing about music that reveals God’s voice to me is the undeniable logic of it. I’m not getting into major and minor, diminished or augmented here. There’s simply not enough space in the world to discuss all that. Suffice it to say there is a great deal to be garnered from learning about the Circle of Fifths and Pythagorean Tuning; both can teach you just how logically arranged sounds are. There is no happenstance with music. Pitches vibrate in harmony with one another to create pleasing sounds, and dissonance is all the more beautiful because it shows what can occur when God’s balance is not maintained. That relief you feel when a chord resolves into harmony is God revealing Himself to you!

Music is mathematical, and that is where my ability to explain it to you comes to a screeching halt. I am mathematically inept and can in no way explain mathematical relationships in music. If you are interested, try a book like Math and Music: Harmonious Connections or The Math Behind the Music. The basic point I’m trying to make is this–just because He isn’t using words, it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t speak and present Himself to us. We only need to understand the language He’s choosing to employ.

Here are two videos that have made the rounds on YouTube and Facebook recently, both of which might better explain what I mean. The first is a musical presentation of the mathematical constant, ∏ (otherwise known as pi), or the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle.

However, tau, the circumference of a circle divided by the radius, can also be represented musically.

I find it interesting that both of these irrational numbers measure a circle, one of the greatest symbols of love and continuity I know of. By the way, for those of you who, like me, are absolute crap at math, here’s what an irrational number is according to Wikipedia.

An irrational number’s value cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction, the numerator and denominator of which are integers. Consequently, its decimal representation never ends or repeats.

Think of it! These numbers that measure a circle never end or repeat, just as everything God creates is unique and specially designed, and that includes you and me. None of us have the exact same fingerprints or retinal patterns, so, in a way, we are like these numbers in that we never repeat. I’m not even going to pretend I’m intelligent enough to understand the level of mathematics involved in this, but once I listen to the beautiful melodies contained within the decimal places of these two numbers, I cannot help but think that the same beauty is hidden in the construction of all living things, but because of our sin and fallen nature, we can only hear a fragment of what God is saying to us. Happily, that does not have to be the case eternally! Jesus Christ is returning, and all will be as He intended for those who have accepted Him as their Savior, the one who paid their sin debt.

***

One of my favorite poems is John Dryden’s “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day.” It was written to celebrate St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music and speaks of the beauty of music, the creative power of God, and the Second Coming of Christ. It reads:

From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began.
When Nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head, 
The tuneful voice was heard from high:
“Arise, ye more than dead!”
Then cold and hot and moist and dry
In order to their stations leap,
And Music’s power obey. 
From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began;
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man.

What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
When Jubal struck the corded shell,
His list’ning brethren stood around,
And, wond’ring, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound, 
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell
That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?

The trumpet’s loud clangor 
Excites us to arms,
With shrill notes of anger
And mortal alarms.
The double double double beat
Of the thundering drum 
Cries, “Hark, the foes come!
Charge, charge, ‘t is too late to retreat!”

The soft complaining flute
In dying notes discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers, 
Whose dirge is whispered by the warbling lute.

Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains and height of passion, 
For the fair disdainful dame.

But oh! what art can teach,
What human voice can reach
The sacred organ’s praise?
Notes inspiring holy love, 
Notes that wing their heavenly ways
To mend the choirs above.

Orpheus could lead the savage race,
And trees unrooted left their place,
Sequacious of the lyre; 
But bright Cecilia raised the wonder higher:
When to her organ vocal breath was given,
An angel heard, and straight appeared–
Mistaking earth for heaven.

GRAND CHORUS

As from the power of sacred lays 
The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator’s praise
To all the blest above:
So, when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour, 
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And Music shall untune the sky.

In other words, when God created the heavens and the earth as it is told in Genesis, harmony, the “music of the spheres,” is what He used to do so. God spoke, and all things were created. One word from Him, and the “jarring heap of atoms” became ordered, and the greatest of all these orders is man. We are the perfection of God’s celestial symphony. That is why we respond to music as we do, be it from the rousing tones of the trumpet, the mournful sounds of the flute, or the powerful voice of the organ that fills a cathedral and draws our ears heavenward as surely as a vaulted ceiling draws our eyes. Music is anywhere and everywhere around us, and it will be there on Judgement Day when it “untune”s the sky when Christ returns to take His children home.

And with that glorious thought, I’ll leave you to listen to Bach’s “Cantata 140,” which was written for the last Sunday of the ecclesiastical year when one’s mind is on the beginning of the new, particularly the second advent of Christ. You may read the libretto, which was taken from Matthew 25, here or simply listen to the beauty of the music itself.  Soli Deo Gloria!