The first time I stepped foot in Kleinhans music hall, I was on a fourth grade field trip to hear Peter and the Wolf. We had talked about this classic piece in Mrs. Carere’s music class and learned about the various components of the symphony, the strings and the wood winds, brass and percussion. We boarded busses for a 45 minute trip into the city (Buffalo) and entered the music hall with a throng of other children. I wanted to stay there all day, and was sad when all too quickly it was time to leave. It wasn’t cool to like classical music and many of my peers couldn’t wait to get back on the bus and back to Classic Rock, or sulty Country. But, the strains of both orchestral and vocal classical music had taken root in my soul.
In the sixth grade, I auditioned for All County Chorus and was selected to represent my school. We learned and sang some lovely classical music, some of which I still remember to this day. I was completely taken in by large group singing. I loved being a part of the harmonies that came together, and the rise and swell of dynamics from double forte to pianissimo. I was singing with other people who loved to sing as much as I did, and that was pure delight. We rehearsed and performed a final concert at Kleinhans music hall, which felt like it was a Carnegie Hall debut to me. I remember my parents planning out the route to the city for the concert, packing a picnic to eat in the car while I rehearsed, and knowing that I was singing to an audience that included them.
In high school, I became an occasional usher for the symphony whenever my high school music teacher was scheduled to sing with the symphony chorus. During college, my tiny apartment blocks away from Kleinhans would bring more regular ushering opportunities in exchange for free concert attendance. So, no surprise, I am still a regular patron and my daughter has been going to children’s concerts since she was a toddler. Today, we went to a matinee performance of a full symphony concert, featuring Bach’s Brandenburg concerto. She brought her full self to the performance as she took in the music and occasionally leaned over to point out pieces of melody she heard moving across sections, or to ask about which instruments in addition to the viola (which she has started learning) play in the alto clef. At intermission, she started dancing around in her flowing lace skirt, humming the melody and getting her energy out before the second half of the performance began. At that moment she literally bumped into another patron, an older distinguished woman. Both she and I apologized. Rather than frowning or chiding her, the woman beamed ear to ear. She said, “whenever I hear the Brandenburg, I can still see my daughters dancing to it when they were young…you just brought me back to that moment.”
When I hear these familiar melodies played, I am pulled into the composers, the audiences, the echoing strains of melody and harmony that speak to the soul in a language beyond words. I am also pulled into the common experience of that music with others who partake in its beauty and mystery. It is like a wrinkle in time, a glimpse of eternity. The music of the spheres.
There have been times during my faith journey where I was not sure what I believed. I felt distance from the concept of God and skeptical of labeling myself as a member of any particular religion or faith tradition. But across these chasms of doubt, music still spoke to my soul in strains that were beyond logic, or reason, or time. Perhaps music allows a glimpse into our human experience of God. Music accompanies the small points of light all along my journey.
“To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”
Albert Einstein – The Merging of Spirit and Science