Sounds and Silence
On Friday night I went to hear the Seattle Symphony play a benefit concert for the victims of Katrina. This was the second time I'd heard the Symphony in the wake of a national tragedy, the previous occasion being the 1st anniversary of 9-11, when the Symphony played Mozart's Requim at Safeco field.
These two concerts will forever be etched in memory as two of the most powerful events of my life. This recent concert was held at Benaroya Hall, and our esteemed conductor, Gerard Schwarz, ascended the podium and began, immediately, with a stirring rendition of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. This was followed by masterful Bach, a Faure Cello Piece, and the powerful Brahms 4th symphony. The event was made the more meaningful with the knowledge that: a) the musicians, ushers, and all other parties involved were donating their time for the evening, and b) there were two members of the Louisiana Symphony playing with our Seattle musicians.
Our sports teams aren't very good (though the wins this past weekend are a refreshing break from the drone of defeat that has so often assaulted us these past autumns). But our symphony is world class. Our maestro said that this concert was (in my paraphrase) 'our small offering - doing what we can to help those in need'. Bravo. It's marvelous that these people, Death Cab for Cutie, and several other local artists and musicians are simply offering their gifts to contribute to others in need. It's marvelous that the 'Fanfare for the Common Man' (my favorite Copland) was the opening since it's the common man that suffered the most in the hurricane. The theme, shared between trumpets, horns, and timpani, is hopeful, and no conductor seems better equipped to draw hope from an orchestra than Schwarz. The Brahms finale was equally powerful, and in between the plaintive cello solo allowed called one to reflection and mourning. It was a treasure to share the time with my family, the symphony, and all others gathered - all of us there to offer what we could to alleviate suffering and to be reminded that music can speak of hope and mourning in the same evening, the same piece, even the same phrase.
The book recommended today's sermon was The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen, and will direct you toward developing the disciplines of silence, solitude, and prayer - a trinity of qualities in desperately short supply in our world. I hope you read it.