Anticipating the Music: from a Stevie Nicks Concert to Friday Night Vespers

Anticipating the Music: from a Stevie Nicks Concert to Friday Night Vespers

“Oh, Vera, I can’t wait to hear that Overture, Tell me about the show!” – Auntie Mame Dennis, Jerry Herman’s Mame

A din falls over the audience. A single note pierces the silent din, the overtones sparkling in a pure array of simple fireworks. The spirit of music rises in the air, melting hate and violence in a since millisecond, inspiring the average human to continue their trek towards Arcadia.

Music, stripped of its message, is but black dots on a page. The most beautiful song can be rendered meaningless by a subpar presentation, which is why most musicians are incessant perfectionists. To be a musician is to honor the only mystical force that man can tame.

I’m in the unique situation this weekend to experience two completely different musical experiences in two days. Tonight, I will be singing as part of a Friday Night Vespers prayer service at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Lisle, IL. Tomorrow, I will be hoisting myself off to The Grand Bastion of The Chicago Blackhawks, The United Center, to hear Stevie Nicks perform with The Pretenders. And Sunday, as always, I will be heading back to JoA to sing my regular Sunday service.

I have been lucky, in my life, to hear some of the most glorious music known to Man and God alike. Though I adore simply laying back and experiencing the music in any form, nothing beats rolling your sleeves up and doing it yourself.

For those of you that have never attended a Catholic Vespers service, especially during Advent, you are depriving yourself of an experience akin to achieving total nirvana. The lights are dimmed, the incense flows like wisps of silky sinew, and the music rises in the air like wind. I often find myself, an extremely dedicated and concentrated musician, becoming lost in the peace of the moment. Even Jazz Musician Duke Ellington mused on the mystic air of sacred music: “On becoming more acquainted with the word of the Bible, I began to understand so much more of what I had been taught, and of what I had learned about life and about the people in mine.”

A stadium concert, on the other hand, is like a Feast of Dionysus. Alcohol is drunk to excess, emotions are high, and the spectators are encouraged to free their inhibitions and “shout, shout, let it all out!” I, an often calculating and reserved human being, find myself getting swept up in the feverish glee of a concert where every person is there to worship an icon.

This afternoon the juxtaposition of these two experiences on back-to-back days struck me as comedic. But, after dwelling on the finer points of each, I realized that they are two sides of the same coin. The notes on the page are all the same, quarter notes, half notes, and rests alike. But, when you place each in its proper context, you see that, while they are incredibly different, they are both sacrifices to the altar of music. Though we won’t necessarily adore every piece we hear, we recognize that it all stems from the same root. Ellington, once again, sums it up perfectly: “There are two kinds of music: Good music, and the other kind.”

So I ask you, my friends, to look at the music that populates your life and assess the role it plays in your daily existence. Switch off the Top 40 station and roll up your shirt sleeves, discovering new music like a thirsty man lunging at a stream of the purest water. Define what you enjoy, why you enjoy it, and what you can do to further your understanding of the role of music in your day-to-day life.

Whether it’s a sung psalm…

…or Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen”…

…the role music plays in our lives is inimitable and irreplaceable.

And remember, to quote ol’ Duke for one final nugget of wisdom, “The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.”

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  • Stevie Nicks was hot, but that was about 25 years ago, which was also when she lost her high range.

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