Walking Our Faith: Is this music the sound of angels singing? (column)
On Wednesday night I took my seat in the third row at the Riverwalk Center to watch a magnificent performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons performed by the National Repertory Orchestra, conducted by Mark Aplizar.
In doing so I had come full circle. Three years ago, when I first arrived in Breckenridge I didn’t know anyone. But I heard the NRO often opened their dress rehearsals to the public to attend for free. So, I went with my knitting, sat in the audience and listened and promised myself that someday I would come back and attend a concert.
I can’t tell you why it took me three years to keep that promise to myself, but I can tell you why I finally did.
Barbara Calvin, who heads the NRO’s Community Link Program asked me to host one of the NRO musicians who had requested a Roman catholic sponsor. I gladly accepted the invitation.
Last Wednesday I sat in the third row of the audience and listened to the most exquisite concert of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and an unforgettable performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. Watching the intricate interplay between Conductor Alpizar and the eight solo violinists was the best perk of my third-row seat, and was the only thing which kept me from closing my eyes to focus solely on the heavenly music.
I’ll get to see Rebecca, who plays trumpet in the NRO, perform at the next concert. During our second meeting in June, we went to Blue Lakes reservoir, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. As we stood on the edge of the lower lake surrounded by a grand panorama of mountains, Rebecca said, “I would like to come back sometime to play my trumpet”. Although Rebecca never elaborated, I like to think what she was saying was that playing in such an awe-inspiring setting would be like playing for God. I think God would enjoy that.
When I shared my concert experience during a phone call the next day, my mother told me that she never went to concerts or had an interest in music when she was growing up until she joined the choir of her church in middle age. After that, she became an avid fan of church choral music. Today, at the age of ninety-one, she attends every concert at the church and while she is no longer a member of the choir, she is their “prayer warrior”, and attends each practice.
As I sat in the third row, concert aficionados, like my mother, would say I sat too close. But as I explained to Mom, it reminded me of my preference for sitting in the second row at church. I don’t want to miss a thing.
Music such as I heard on Wednesday night, can only be described as a religious experience. As I listen I thank God for the talented composers who created the original scores and for the conductor and the musicians who on Wednesday night shared their talent with all of us.
On Thursday evening I went to Adoration. There were twelve visiting priests, young men here on vacation, who had made time to spend an hour in silent prayer. At the end of the hour we sang the Benediction in Latin: Tantum ergo Sacramentum Veneremur cernui (Down in adoration falling, This great Sacrament we hail).
This chanted prayer is one I look forward to singing each week, even not knowing the translation without looking at the words in English, it resonates as an offering of praise and worship. But as I listened to the twelve young priests sing in Latin it sounded as if a chorus of angels had come from heaven to sing to their Maker.
I don’t know when the first worshipers of God sang his praises. I understand that the Psalms were originally sung. But where the idea to sing to God came from?
I cannot explain why we feel closer to God, why we feel in the presence of an angelic chorus when we hear a particularly beautiful piece of music. Or why a prayer sung to God somehow sounds more sacred than when it is spoken.
When I hear a sung Mass, our prayers sung in Latin or the exquisite music I enjoyed on Wednesday night, I imagine angels gathered around the throne of God, singing of his glory forever. When we join our voices to this heavenly chorus, in a different form of prayer, we become part of their divine choir.
Perhaps music is a connection to God in the language of angels praising his holy name which our minds cannot adequately comprehend, yet which our hearts and souls intuitively recognize and long to join.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of “Knit Together,” “A Map of Heaven,” and other books. She lives in Breckenridge.
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