I’ve always enjoyed watching the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein. I started taking piano lessons at age 7, embracing pick-up stickball games instead of structured little league to allow time to practice. My brother, Mike, and I had a brother act that was beyond description (note: carefully chosen words). At ages 10 & 8 we added some cousins to make it a family affair, but the Jackson’s and Osmond’s were safe. At 12 came the saxophone (and yes, it was my sax appeal that 1st brought Adele around!). I sang with choirs and other small ensembles through my youth years. I began college on a music scholarship, headed toward a career in music education. And, finally, I am a gleek.
That is all a circular and confessional route to tell you about 1 of my favorite Christmas gifts this year: a date-night with Adele to the BSO (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra) and their Big Band Hit Parade Concert last week-end.
A best-kept secret in my adopted hometown is that Baltimore has one of the finest orchestra’s in the nation.
Our music director, Marin Alsop, made history when she was appointed the director of the BSO, becoming the first woman to head a major American orchestra. She is a regular guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, et.al. She is a genius. One of the neatest things she has done is develop groundbreaking approaches to introducing symphony music to children and youth here.
The BSO Principal Pops Conductor is Jack Everly. He serves a similar role with the Indianapolis Orchestra and you can see him on TV as the newly named music director of the National Memorial Day Concert and the Capitol Fourth.
Maestro Everly conducted the concert we attended. He was entertaining, educational, and hysterical! With one song remaining, an older couple started slipping out of the fancy box seats. Without missing a beat Everly interrupts his introduction by saying, “Get your coat, Margaret. I’m going for the car…” What a hoot!!
The music was a bit of an homage to Arty Shaw, but more broadly big band swing music, circa 1940’s. Before each song Everly would talk about the composers/arrangers. After each song he would acknowledge sections and solos from the orchestra. It was all about the community!
Something I always enjoy at such an event is the musicians wandering out on stage before things begin, taking out their instruments. I like to name the instruments for those sitting around me (you know they love that!) and listen for their distinct sounds.
Along the way the number of instruments playing scales or lines from the music gets loud and chaotic. Then the concertmaster walks briskly to the platform and leads the tuning of the orchestra before the maestro takes the stage. Chaos. Silence. Tuning. Cheers. Music!
One other thing I noticed this trip: support staff (if it were a rock or country concert, we’d call them roadies). They were on-stage early, setting up stands, arranging scores, unpacking the larger instruments. They were walking about as the musicians populated the stage, changing out chairs, replacing stands, etc. They were busy during the intermission. They opened/closed doors for featured guests during the concert. And, long after the musicians had gone, they wrapped things up.
I know that all metaphors break down at some point. But, that does not diminish their value to me. Since I think in pictures, God often speaks to me through experiences, like the concert.
Remember: I was not there to work. I was there in the company of Adele, the BSO, other patrons, and the LORD for a little abundant living.
But in the midst of the toe-tapping and head bobbing concert God whispered in my ear: “You know, this is sort of like Church!” I thought, “Really? I’ve heard all kinds of music styles when worshiping in churches across the land, but not a single big band, swing style among them.” Then God clarified…
- Composer/Arranger: our Father
- Conductor: our Groom, His Son
- Musicians: God’s Spirit, breathing life into the instruments
- Instruments: His people
- Patrons: His mission
God got quiet.
I said to Him, “And the pastors/staff… they’re the concertmaster, right?” God smiled at me and said, “No. They’re the support staff. The ones behind the scenes – not up front.” I said, “Really? They are not the ones I paid to go see/hear?” God’s clear, strong whisper: “That’s right.”
I thought, wait a minute. That’s not how most American churches look! We think it’s all about the pastors/staff… we credit them… we blame them… we even elevate/identify Church communities by them.
One of the key places I think this metaphor collapses is in setting – you see, as a patron I actually paid to go to the concert… it didn’t come out to me.
The Church, however, doesn’t perform in a concert hall so others can come see us. We might practice a bit in that setting, but it is not where the patrons are, or where they are expected. It is not where the mission happens. The people for whom we make Kingdom Music are actually all around us all week long. They don’t come to us… we go to them!
So, how does this analogy look when laid as a template over your Church? Be honest! BTW: I’m still working on a place for the concertmaster in my analogy, but God hasn’t said anything about it yet! If He tells you, please pass it along…