October 23, 2009
Making Beautiful Music
by Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com Senior Editor
Do you sense the Creator, world?
See Him above the canopy of stars!
Above the canopy of stars surely a loving Father dwells.
— Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 in D-Minor, Opus 125, "Choral"
Comparing the body of Christ and our relationship with our Creator to a symphony orchestra and its conductor is nothing new. I've read these analogies before, as I'm sure you probably have as well.
But this past week, I was smack dab in the middle of all of the symphonic action and really started to think about the comparison as the music swirled around me.
A member of a civic chorus, I was able to sing in two performances of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D-Minor. Back in the day, this symphony marked the first time a major composer had incorporated voices into a symphony (a chorus and four soloists sing in the final movement). The words were taken from a poem written by Friedrich Schiller called "Ode to Joy." You might recognize that title, even if you're not familiar with classical music, as Beethoven's accompanying melody was adapted into the beloved church hymn "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee."
While sitting in dress rehearsals for our performances, I soaked in everything that the conductor was saying either to the chorus or to the orchestra playing in front of us. Frequently, he would stop us and give direction as to dynamics and tempo and overall interpretation of the work.
From his vantage point, the conductor was hearing the entire ensemble in a way that none of us could from where we were positioned. He was able to see—and hear—the big picture. He knew what would make for the biggest impact when we performed and what would translate best to reach the hearts and please the ears of our audiences.
We had performed this particular symphony many times before—and once with this same conductor. But this time, he asked us to change several of the markings in our score. "Why is he asking us to crescendo here when we didn't do that before?" Or "why would we break here and not carry over the phrase? We didn't do that the last time." "Why is he doing this?????"
These were the murmurings I could hear all around me (and I may have uttered one or two myself) from fellow chorus members. We didn't understand why he was making these changes or how it could possibly be any better than how we had performed the symphony in the past. But the conductor is the conductor. You do what he says. You follow the stick. And you keep the vowel on the beat. Those are the rules, because that's what makes for beautiful music and an overall spectacular concert experience.
After our performances, I marveled at how the conductor's changes and his direction made all the difference in the world. He was right. And I could feel that our performances outshone what we had done in the past. The audiences stood more quickly to give us standing ovations, and the applause lasted longer than usual. This conductor, this skilled musician, this general manager of instrumentalists, vocalists and soloists, knew exactly what he was doing. He had a plan and a purpose. He had our best interests at heart. Why would I ever have doubted him?
As I pondered further, I couldn't help but think of our heavenly Father, "The Great Conductor in the Sky," if you will. Is he not directing the music of our lives? Has he not written the melody that each of us must sing? Does he not know which lives will harmonize best with others? Is he not the one who gives us a reason to make music in the grand symphony of life that he has orchestrated?
Brothers and sisters, let us follow the glorious direction of our Creator today. Our best efforts will only lead to a cacophony, but he is the one who can make beautiful music in and through our lives.
Intersection of Faith & Life: Is your life a pleasant melody to the audience around you? Or is it harsh and out of tune, a dissonance that is hurting the ears of anyone with whom you come in contact? Aim to sing a new song today for God is the one who puts the music of love in our hearts (1 John 4:7-12).