The joyful strains of Mozart’s overture to the “Marriage of Figaro” sprang up and filled the air, and thus started my night listening to the Glendale Youth Orchestra as they played through various pieces of delightful orchestral music. The schedule promised a good dose of all four time periods of music, Classical, Baroque, Romantic, and a bit of Contemporary: Vivaldi, Mozart, Ibert, Haydn, and Mendelssohn, to name a few composers. I looked up from the schedule and focused on the music. Nothing could prepare me for what lay ahead, absolutely nothing. But first, the music itself.

The night’s performance focused on six solo musicians: oboe, cello, double-bass, French horn, bassoon, and flute. Mozart’s overture to the “Marriage of Figaro” burst forth with light, cheerful sounds. The familiarity of the song heightened its beauty, especially towards the ending measures. A sixth-grader cellist played as the soloist for the first movement of Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C Major. Pure brilliance, the beautiful echoes of the orchestra followed the bold melody lines of the cello with grace and obvious delight. Vivaldi’s first two movements of his Bassoon Concerto in E Minor and Dittersdorf’s Double Bass Concerto in E Major followed right after. The very light and almost whispery sound of the bassoon contrasted greatly with the deep, or alternatively high, dynamics of the double bass. Strauss’ horn and oboe concertos came afterwards, and the first part of our night ended with Ibert’s Flute Concerto – marvelously executed, but a definitely modern sounding piece that paled in comparison to the glorious Classical and Baroque music afore it.

Faces, faces, faces; flushed with excitement, hidden behind rebellious hair, beaming above huge instruments. All the musicians took their place after the intermission. The lights dimmed, and the conductor stood up on the podium and gave a brief explanation of the following piece, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 1 in C Minor. Mendelssohn, without a doubt one of the greatest, if not the greatest, child prodigy musicians to ever live, wrote this symphony at the age of 15. The second movement, Andante, was filled with a strong lyrical melody that almost brought tears of joy to my eyes. ‘Twas quite a strange, wondrous sound to hear all the string instruments playing pizzicato while the flutes, oboes, and clarinets gently uplifted the melody. Then suddenly, their roles inversed, and the native smoothness of the bow on the violin strings took up the soft melody of the woodwind instruments and raised it to a level of emphatic joy. The brass instruments added their two cents, the timpani rolled, and the grand symphony had run its course. The night had finished, and we walked out into the biting cold. Still lost in the music, only my hands felt the effect of the cold. And we walked away from the concert, words simply flowing from my mouth with no stop. Absolutely no stop.

A truly wonderful creation – the orchestra. All the many instruments that sometimes blended together in harmony, flowed in and out of one another, at other times starkly opposed each other. Each and every instrument took on a life of its own, raising his voice to join the chorus. But was only half of the beauty this night. I made an effort to look at the faces of the musicians themselves, and a thought struck me in full force. This performance was no mere collaboration of instruments, but a gathering of immortals. “Everlasting horrors or everlasting splendours,” to quote C.S. Lewis. I remembered the solo cellist, eyes closed, enveloped in the music, he played. The rigid back of the conductor spoke volumes: he almost bounced on the podium caught up in the story of the music. That’s what these musicians truly did – they told a story. Different voices, different ways, yes. But one story. One story. A love for music, a dedication to precision, a delight in sharing this consecrated love. For, whether they acknowledge it or not, the beauty of Music comes from above, from the Father of all Beauty, the Father who is Beauty. And He allowed them to partake in a small piece of His splendour.

Someone cannot have exposure to the Divine splendour and receive no mark, big or small. It is like coming into contact with the burning blaze of fire, place your hand it in, and you will be burnt and scarred. That is exactly what happened this night. I have been scarred for life. Yet another pierce of Joy – clear, keen, and deep – has forever made its mark on my heart. As the cold wind quickly, utterly drove all feeling of warmth from our bodies, so the quick Joy drove out all feeling of sorrow and sadness. What was left? A heart-wrenching feeling. Torn between heaven and earth, I could only experience longing. Longing for more, longing for an eternal Joy, Imago Dei made its imprint on my heart once more, and I felt it. Oh how I felt it. But after the indescribable longing came an enthusiasm, a deeper meaning, a deeper light on Life itself. How absolutely amazing to be alive! What greater proof of the Living God than this? Suddenly, I am filled with happiness, energy, and praise. Words come to me unbidden, shouting and singing with vivacity. Boredom? This weight of divine Glory in our mundane world changes our perspective over everything. Evil exists in the world – a stated fact – but the Lord God of Hosts sent His son to walk upon this very world which lies prey to sin, death, and grief. It is sanctified! We can go on with life knowing that the very evil world that we live in has been steeped in the blood of the Lamb, for His elect. And only good can come of constantly thinking about these issues, these redemptive promises. Life will never be boring. And I pray that I will always live life at this same level. Feeling the sharp pains of Joy, longing, bubbling over with happiness and thankfulness, this… this… Intensity.


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