Saturday, March 28, 2009

At the Sydney Opera House and what happened there

Krista will put up pictures of our date last night soon. I enjoy going out with her, and last night we had a great time together. We went to see the Sydney Symphony playing a show called "Beethoven and Beyond" at the Sydney Opera House. They played Beethoven's Piano concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15, Hayden's Symphony no. 67 in F and Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. Renowned pianist Paul Lewis played piano for the Beethoven piece, and Douglas Boyd conducted.

Douglas Boyd is quite a conductor. We sat on the stage (it would be the choir's seats when they have a choir) and could see his every move. He would grunt and hiss as he gracefully directed the orchestra through each piece.

At one point someone crinkled some paper (on the other side of the auditorium, it wasn't me) and he gave them such a practiced look of insane anger that I think the person's bit of paper spontaneously combusted and the ushers silently removed the offensive person.

But then, during the break between the opening movement and the Largo, someone started to applaud, then a short but well-intentioned outbreak of appreciation came from the audience. Boyd put his palms together and bowed with a slight smile on his face as if to say Ah, thank you for this applause. We are not finished yet, but I can see that our simple music has moved you. I can tell that you have no idea of the true beauty of this third and longest cadenza we just played, and I imagine you will have no idea what to do at the end of our Bartok, when the chromatic theme is adapted to a diatonic environment... but for now you are impressed and perhaps truly appreciative so far as you are able, and you understand perhaps for the first time what it means when the Bard says that cat guts can bring forth men's souls. So we accept your applause, though we are not yet finished -- and as for the paper crinkling and the coughing and that man there in the red shirt who keeps creaking about in his chair... these things I forgive you, because I can see now they were done in ignorance. And now, if you are quite finished we will continue.

And then, when the evening was over and Boyd returned continually to the front of the stage to receive still more applause, when our hands were raw and tired from playing a sort of music back to the conductor and his orchestra, when he returned one too many times to the apron of the stage and bowed and smiled his superior smile, we forgave him, too, because what he had accomplished was not only some simultaneous reading of music but rather an organized reminder that we, yes we all, are made in the image of God and that a man can take what is in his mind and scratch it out on paper, and other human beings can fashion instruments and still others sacrifice their lives to learn to bring pleasing sounds from these instruments and all these things can come together to provide the faintest echo of the words "Let there be" spoken many millenia ago and for these two hours we remembered that we need not be captives to our base selves, because deeper still stirs an innate desire to be like the One who made us and this is not only possible but so near that we feel we can reach out and take hold of it as simply as reaching out and plucking ripe stars from the tree of night.

And then we took the train back to our hotel, happy and tired and occasionally catching the eye of someone else in a collared shirt or an evening gown and between us passed the mutual understanding that there is a God and He is not far from each one of us, and we must serve Him, we must make this place one that is fitting for Him and that when He comes to reign again we will make an orchestra of previously unknown proportions and there shall be a symphony unlike any other in all of history, and just as His glory fills the whole earth like air, like daylight, so our praise will rise and seek to attain the fullness of His presence.