Over the years, I have played Handel’s Messiah many times. Playing in an orchestra can be so much fun. I loved it and miss it. (My shoulders have put a stop to that.)
Once, my friend Kathy and I were playing for a school production of the Wizard of Oz. The music was easy and we were having fun watching the action on stage. What made this production great was that they were using a small dog (as Toto, of course!) that was not all that well behaved. At one point, the actors were dancing down the aisle of the theatre singing “We’re Off to See the Wizard” when Toto turned right. From the orchestra pit we could see a “wave” of audience members as they jumped up – Toto was running down their row of seats; her fur tickling legs. It was hilarious.
For many years, John and I went to the symphony with our friend, Nancy. Due to a mix-up at the box office one year, our season ticket seats were sold to someone else and the theater had to come up with a solution. They gave us BOX seats on the right side of the stage in the Saenger Theater in Pensacola. Every time we sat in those seats, I wanted to give my best “Queen of England” wave to those seated below us!
Those seats gave us a great view of the orchestra on stage. The program one particular night included a very modern piece; the three of us had never heard it before. As the orchestra played, it was easy to tell that it was not going well. The tempo was off; the conductor was working too hard; and, the audience was beginning to get restless and a little noisy. About half way through the piece, there was a pause in the music. From our viewpoint we could see that it was only a pause – more music was to come. But, the restless audience took the break to mean that the end of the piece had come (finally) and applauded. Usually, the conductor will ignore the rude act of early clapping, but this time he did not. We could see his shoulders go up just a little and his baton come to rest on his music stand. The members of the orchestra smiled, some giggled, and all took their bows. This modern piece of “music” was over, never to be played in Pensacola again, probably.
Wait, I started by sharing about playing the Messiah. Let me get back to that. The Messiah is a wonderfully inspiring piece of music. It makes my heart sing. And, the culmination of the piece is the playing and singing of the “Hallelujah Chorus.” As this song begins, the audience traditionally comes to their feet; and the music hall seems to swell as the orchestra plays, the singers sing, and the audience joins in.
While in college, we performed The Messiah every Christmas. One particular year, the performance was being held in a large church and it was all beautiful. Until the NEXT TO THE LAST song began. As we started to play, one of the senior leaders of the church stood to his feet. The audience stood with him. And, for a few moments things seemed great and then the entire assembly realized that they we standing at the wrong time. He stood one song too early. From the orchestra pit, we were having a great time. The question lingered in the air “will they sit down?” And, the silent answer came back, “No. We will remain standing.”
I was so impressed when the man who first stood spoke publicly about his mistake. A humble and Godly man, he was always so careful to be correct. He also had a great sense of humor about his error and took all of the teasing that came his way.
So, remember whatever you do this Christmas, you probably didn’t lead almost 2000 people to stand at the wrong time.
Enjoy today’s scripture from which a piece of the Messiah was inspired.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)