The Rev. Dr. Skip Ferguson
Manassas Presbyterian Church
May 12, 2013
Celebrating Our Music
Stirred, Shaken, Stilled
It was a heady experience for the 10-year old boy:
To go out with his father on a Tuesday night,
a school night, after dinner,
dressed up in sport coat and necktie,
the two of them headed downtown to the concert hall,
off to hear a performance by the symphony orchestra.
It was a thirty-minute drive into the city from their home,
a drive filled with a sense of excitement.
Once they arrived, the boy’s father parked the car
and the two of them walked to the entrance of the concert
and then through the doors of the auditorium,
the place buzzing as the other concertgoers poured in
and found their seats.
An usher escorted the boy and his father to their seats
in the center section about half-way back from the stage,
and then handed them their programs.
The boy immediately immersed himself
in the pages of the program,
reading through the notes about the performance:
what the orchestra would play,
who the composer of each piece was,
when the pieces were written.
After he finished his reading,
he looked around the large concert hall;
wondering what the view was like in the seats
in the upper balcony.
At exactly 8:00 pm the house lights dimmed,
and the stage lights went up.
The concertmaster stood up and nodded to the oboist,
who then played an A,
the traditional call to the other musicians
for their final tuning.
For a few moments the stage was filled with a raucous noise,
as the musicians checked their instruments one last time.
Then the concertmaster took his seat,
and held his violin on his lap,
his eyes looking straight ahead.
The cacophony from the stage stopped as quickly as it had
and a hush fell over the hall.
A door opened on the left side of the stage,
and out walked the conductor,
resplendent in white tie and tails,
smoothing his hair as he walked to the center of the stage.
He stopped when he reached the podium,
turned and faced the audience,
acknowledging their applause with a smile.
He then mounted the steps to the podium,
picked up his baton,
scanned the orchestra
and went to work,
leading them quickly into the first piece.
It was glorious: 80 musicians creating waves of sound
that soared and bounced and sailed,
each musician taking the notes the composer had put on paper
and turning them, as if by magic,
into something ethereal, celestial.
The boy was in awe –
how could anyone have imagined
those sounds in his head?
Heard those notes?
How could anyone have been able to capture them,
one note at a time,
and put them down on paper:
these notes for the violins,
these notes for the trombones,
distinct notes and markings for the
tympani and the cymbals.
andante, presto, adagio.
the burst of a trumpet,
the crack of a snare drum,
the grunting of a bassoon,
the laughter of a clarinet,
all the strings singing,
The boy floated, moved by the music,
transported by its beauty,
transported to a place he’d never been to before.
This is what music can do to us:
It can cause our toes to tap;
move us to get up and dance,
lead us to sing out with pride,
swell our hearts and move us to tears.
Music touches us, filling us with joy,
gracing us with peace.
Music helps us express our emotions,
from pride to grief,
from concern to assurance.
The style of music doesn’t matter:
secular, sacred –
it’s all music,
all with its roots in the symphony of sound
God plays for us throughout creation.
It is all music that can stir us,
and still us.
The memory of my first trip to hear the Buffalo Philharmonic
in Kleinhans Music Hall is still with me after all these
dare I say it: still with me 48 years later.
It was the foundation for my love of music,
my love for music.
Where my love for classical music came from is anyone’s
My mother preferred Robert Goulet or Shirley Jones singing
Broadway show tunes.
My father’s musical universe was populated with the
Big Bands from the 1930s and 40s:
Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey –
all of them swinging.
The radio station I listened to
pumped out songs from a new British band
called The Beatles
when they weren’t playing “Fun, Fun, Fun”
and other hits by the Beach Boys.
I liked the Beach Boys, the Beatles and other rock;
but even at the age of 10 I was smitten by classical music
because it touched me, moved me, got inside me
in a way no other music did.
Certainly we don’t all respond to the same music the same
we are each different,
and so we respond to music differently,
each of us in our own ways.
But still we each respond;
we don’t just hear,
feel the music –
if we open our minds and hearts
and let the music pour into us.
Even if we all have different musical tastes,
we can all understand and agree with
the composer of our closing hymn
who wrote that,
every song that’s part of our worship
has the potential to move us
to a more profound Alleluia
as we praise God with music,
praise God through music.
For all the glorious music we have Sunday after Sunday,
our musicians are not here to entertain us.
For that matter, they are not here to please us.
They are here to please God.
They sing for God,
offering their music to God.
We, of course, are part of that offering
as we listen, and at times, join in.
Our musicians lead us,
help us to turn our hearts and minds to God,
“move us to a more profound alleluia.”
You can, of course, grumble that you don’t like to sing,
or that you don’t like this hymn or that hymn,
but you’re just going to get left along the side of the road
as the musicians lead the rest of us,
those of us willing to follow,
to a deeper, truly more profound alleluia
than we could ever hope to find without music.
Music ties us to one another – it is something we do
Music ties us to other communities,
other cultures as we sing songs
from other parts of the world,
Music ties us to all the saints
as we sing hymns our ancestors in faith sang
50 years, 100 years, 200 years ago.
I would guess that there has never been a year
in the 146-year history of our church
when this congregation hasn’t sung “Amazing Grace.”
Think about that: we are part of a community of saints
stretching back 146 years who together have sung
that lovely hymn,
that deeply moving,
profoundly emotional song.
“…be filled with the
wrote the author of the Letter to the church at Ephesus.
“Be filled with Spirit
as you sing psalms and
hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves,
singing and making
melody to the Lord in your hearts,
giving thanks to God
the Father at all times
and for everything
in the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Sing!” the Bible teaches us.
Sing out joyfully,
Sing even if you don’t like singing,
Sing even if you don’t think you have a very good voice,
Sing even if you don’t like the song.
Sing and make melody to the Lord our God
from the heart, with the heart.
These are not my words,
or Deborah’s words to us,
the words of the Lord.