Monday, December 9, 2013

Anthem of Joy

The Christmas musical And On Earth, Peace has finished.  Months of practice, planning, rehearsal, and preparation culminated into two nights of performance.  Then, it is over and we are left with stories, memories, and the tunes stuck in our head.

The musical score, each song that has been practiced over and over (and over) are hushed now from the formal performance.  But, these anthems of praise, anthems of joy, are not merely the music written for the performance.  It is the laughter and giggles, and at time chortles and guffaws, that have filled the stage – these are a theme in the anthem of joy.  Each of the carefully prepared devotions, led and given with leading questions are pointing out phrases.  The whip of flags provides a soft rhythm in the song; while the practices and performance of the angel color guard continue to add a momentum of building tempos.  The sound of little shepherd feet running to their places is a percussive vibrato accented by the quiet counterpoint of a whisper of wheelchairs and walkers and feet spilled with candlelight.  The hands on the sound board, the lights, and computer are all subtle in movement.  But, they are such an important part of the musical line, part of the joyous hymn.  A new baby’s sleepy sigh, a touch point in a phrase that is complex with many parts melding into time changes and key change, rings out into the smallness of the rafters and the largeness of the heart.  It is sensed in the feet of children dancing on their parents’ laps without conscious thought, simply with the need to join the celebration.  Whispered instructions from flashlight wielding stage crews add a new instrumental line; one so subtle that many do not notice, unless it would suddenly not be there.  The audience reaches out to meet the joy, and shares it back with applause, smiles, and warm wishes.

The music comes to a silence, but the anthem of joy does not end.  This time is merely another change of pace before moving to a new musical line.  Another key change, a new bridge, and a series of fermatas, then pause for breath before speed finds its new metronomic pace.  The anthem continues in the well wishes of Christmas, the wide-eyed wonder of the child who can twirl and experience wonder in helping place the nativity.  It is experienced in the feel of the clean crisp quietness belonging to the first snow.  The smells of cookies delivered to neighbors strike gentle glissandos, while the delivery of a blanket to one who is cold heralds joy like a perfectly struck chime.  Bells break in as Christmas carolers visit others.  Shared meals with harmony, dissonance, and resolution revolve in the bond of family.  Delicate soprano notes play as little ones don costumes and take their places on stages to win hearts and steal shows.  New chords are tried as new memories are made and old familiar chords blend in with sweet traditions.

The program ends, And On Earth, Peace.  The lights have come back on, and people eventually filtered back out into the dark and snowy night. But, the anthem of joy does not end.  It is the eternal anthem of the joy of the Lord, one of complexity and styles that has stretched for thousands of years of music.  And yet, though with different instrumental focuses, the same theme repeats.  Come, join in the anthem, it is the joy of the Lord.