Which is the most glamorous instrument of a symphony orchestra? I can only speculate. I’m not now, nor have I ever been, a musician. I’m not a student of music. In fact, I’ve never seriously attempted to play an instrument. So, faced with the above inquiry, I’m lost.
But I’ve been a classical music buff most of my life. How do I account for that? My father. He was my teacher. He persisted in exposing me to classical works.
He and my grandmother were born in San Francisco. His dad — my grandfather — who spoke with a Southern drawl and tended a ranch for many years, was from rural Arkansas. Classical music never made his list of Top 10 favorites.
To say there was a cultural divide in our family is an understatement.
Granddad was stationed in the Army at the Presidio of San Francisco, following World War I, and met a girl of Scottish-English heritage from across the bay in Sausalito. He had a confident swagger, an Irish gift of gab and an Army uniform.
Dad was born at the Presidio’s hospital. His mother instilled in him a love of the classics — music and literature.
Dad and I must have attended a hundred classical music concerts together over the years. He fed details and trivia into my right ear during each performance as I sat next to him. It was my apprenticeship. I know from personal experience that Tchaikovsky can lift you to heaven’s heights, permit you to bask in its radiant light, then slam you to the ground and bloody your nose quicker than I can consume a handful of sour gummy worms.
Tchaikovsky has made many a grown man cry. But, getting back to my opening question, the most glamorous instrument? Can I pick two? (It’s my challenge, so I’ll pick as many as I like.) I’d say No. 2 is the cello. Its sound is sonorous, and the fingering is like watching a miniature ballet — or three-legged race.
No. 1? The violin.
Not even close. Yeah, it takes 20 violins to equal a single kettledrum, but oooh the sound. Like spawning salmon, violins overwhelm you with numbers.
Which brings me to my point: When we die will there be music in heaven? (Bet you didn’t see that coming.) Specifically, will there be classical music? And, will we listen to Beethoven or will heaven’s selections — created by even lesser lights there — be superior to anything produced in Salzburg or Wien?
Who knows? But I hereby put forth my request that classical music be included on heaven’s agenda. And that it be loud — like it is in my family room.
While on earth we’ve grown used to the sound of Mozart and Beethoven. How much more spectacular will the music of the heavenlies be in an environment of compositional and acoustic perfection? The sound generated, I’m betting, will surpass anything heard in Vienna’s Musikverein or Boston’s Symphony Hall.
And, frankly, I don’t expect harps to be any more prominent there than here. One per orchestra.
I’m a fan of the Seoul Philharmonic. I watch their concerts online. The orchestra consists mostly of talented young players who’ve probably been playing their instruments less than 20 years, yet the sound they produce is remarkable. They’re enthusiastic, talented and young. Many are below the age of 40.
But — as per the hymn, “Amazing Grace” — “when we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun” … heaven’s orchestras will be stocked with players of exceptional brilliance, excellence and experience.
Given 10,000 years to prepare and rehearse, heavenly musicians are certain to be far above just “highly skilled.” Each will be a tour de force.
My father’s been in heaven for a decade now, and I’ll bet he’s been savoring all types of performances. In fact, I’d wager he’s saving me a seat next to him in his favorite concert hall.
And, if I believe that heaven will one day make good earth’s insufficiencies — which I do — I gotta believe I’ll arrive at the pearly gates playing a Stradivarius and looking like Toby Keith.
God can do anything.