No iTunes can match, no earbud replace the living intercourse of artist and audience.
The kid at the keyboard, Samuel, who is only sixteen and won’t mind me calling him that, had no idea what he was about to do to us. Oh he knew he was presenting a Chopin piece for an offertory, one he had practiced for many months in preparation for a local scholarship competition. And that our small church was a great place for a first public performance, a warm up for the big dance, but he could not know the rest.
That the music, Fantaisie Impromtu in C# Op. 66, was not specifically religious did not matter. All beauty belongs to God and, as per Philippians 4:8, our congregation celebrates it whenever we can. That such an intricate and demanding piece came from such a young man, with power, grace, skill, and sensitivity, moved the adults in the room on a level a sixteen-year-old cannot comprehend. When I realized he’d played it from memory I nearly fell off my stool, but you would have had to be there.
That’s the thing about live music. It is fleeting, communal, and transparent, lasting only as long as notes linger midair, shared only by those who perform with those who attend. No iTune can match, no earbud replace the living intercourse of artist and audience. Of all God’s creatures only humans have the experience created when a musician brings a composer’s song to life and infuses the listener with its soul.
You have to be there.
I’ve “been there” three times since last summer. Once to hear one of my favorite rockers, Don Henley, this was a gift from my daughters; once to hear the Ukrainian National Symphony, presented by the Danville Concert Association; and of course Samuel playing Chopin in church. (That none of the music was specifically Christian says things about the state of Christian performing arts, but we won’t go there today). Each time the music, the mastery of the artists, and the shared joy of the moment, moved me to tears. Each time I gave glory to God and thanked him for the gift. Earth is full of the echoes of heaven, and if we are capable of such beauty, pathos, and exultation through the combination of tone, rhythm, and word, what must God be able to do?
Some say that in heaven we will be able to hear color and see music. If so, I can’t wait. Until then keep singing in church, encouraging young musicians, and making room in your life to share the experience of live music, because if you want to be blessed by the piano man, you have to be there.
Oh, and Samuel? He won.