In high school I was part of a really good choir.
In my mind and memory we were an elite musical unit. We won the praise of our teacher and many of the school administrators. We traveled as far as our limited public school budget would allow, and farther when we pitched in our own money.
(Read that last statement as “when our parents had to slash another part of the budget and help out mightily”)
Our show choir competed and often won. Our musical theatre department was the envy of many in our state. We actually travelled to a regional theatre conference one summer and showed out pretty tremendously.
We were good and it’s possible we were as good in reality as we were in my memory.
The music I was privy to singing in high school has shaped much of how I view the world and interact with it. I can remember the year before moving to Alabama and traveling to Germany. While there, we sang much of the four part and eight part music we prepared in different settings. The best concerts we gave were impromptu. There was one time when we went into the cathedral at Salzburg, Austria and sang. It was so beautiful to hear the sound reverberating from the stone walls. It made sense why and how they designed those huge places.
Another time we were outside of Munich and took a tour through a salt mine. While taking a hand-pulled raft across an underground lake, we sang, as a choir, this song.
When we got to the other side, we felt like maybe we needed a gold drachma to hand to the riverboat man, having ferried us to the other side of eternity.
In Alabama, in the really good choir, we sang selections from Mozart’s requiem. Singing his music is an exciting experience. I don’t know what there was about his genius, but he not only understood music, but also the musician. He understood what excited a musician about performing, and an excited performer is an excellent performer. He composed challenging but achievable music that stretched out harmonies into sweet tensions, resolved only when you think they will never truly modulate to a great state.
In preparation for the concerts and not to give our directors and teachers a free day (no… not at all) we watched the movie Amadeus. Our teachers gave us the excuse it was research by making us hold our music books and turning to the appropriate pages when different movements of the requiem would come up.
A month later, I randomly picked out a book where the Lacrimosa, the dirge sung for mourning, had written at the very end “this is where he dies.” It was. He died in that measure in the movie.
Amadeus is a sad movie about the many wasted moments in the life of a genius and the one man who only really understood his genius, and was driven mad with envy for it.
In life there is something with which I have had to come to grips. First of all, that movies are not always a true indication of what really happened in the life of the person it’s supposed to portray. Second of all, I would come to see the heart of Soliere in myself as I grew.
I love music, and I love music when it is written and performed well. I have even written a few songs myself over time. I loved the songs I wrote and they were, at their time of composition, honest offerings of my heart and expressions of my life. But I know that within the context of comparison, what I write is pale and bland when stacked next to the compositions of some of my heroes and friends.
Now, this isn’t false humility. I’m not hunting around for “oh but your stuff really was good.” This is an honest look at what is. I have written things that exist as an act of worship between God and me that amount to refrigerator art.
Not to be confused with the song by the same name by my friend Kayla. That song is more than refrigerator art. That’s frame it and bring it to work to show off to the coworkers sort of stuff.
Not that God has coworkers.
Or a briefcase.
Analogy dying a slow gasping death…
Anyway, I learned from watching the movie that, for me, is all about Soliere, that a person who is not the greatest composer or greatest writer still has a calling. Soliere had a gift no one else had. He could truly see the genius of Mozart. He could feel the ferocity of beauty falling from the pages when he held a score. He could hear the sweetness falling from the pages.
And then he was a total butthead and tried to murder him with sadness.
It is well with us when we discover that we are not the greatest. It sometimes inspires us to greater heights. Sometimes it drives us to work harder. And sometimes it reveals another purpose. Genius laden men and women are often so thoroughly consumed with the work at which they so mightily dominate, that they can’t figure out why it is so good. They can’t even enjoy their own work.
That’s where I come in.
People who don’t know me might think that I am disingenuous with the volume of praise I offer. A lifetime of seeing people and their greatness, however, has yielded me the unmatched ability to observe specifics about greatness. I discovered a few years ago that not everyone can actually see what I see. I thought it was obvious, but again, not everyone takes the time to see what can be happy.
The point is that sometimes you are Mozart and sometimes you are Soliere.
But at all times, no matter who you are, you must do what only you can. Imagine if in the fictional world of Amadeus Soliere actually mentored Mozart. Imagine if he befriended him and helped settle some of his madness. What a fulfilling life!
Create! Because in your act of creation is worship!
Observe! In observation you see slivers of God’s greatness shining through the men and women who bear His image.
Encourage! I have never heard of friendships that have come to harm because someone overshared honest positive opinions about what they see.
In this, we see an act of worship, not of man, but of He who created all of the actual ingredients of art that we awkwardly and excellently spend our lifetimes rearranging, like magnets on a refrigerator.
Seriously, go check out Kayla’s music here. She is an excellent worship leader. A work she occasionally travels for. Good information, you know, if you need to secure a worship leader.