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We have a conductor with a vision

By Sam Askew

An admirer asked the conductor of the orchestra following a great performance, “What is the most difficult instrument to play?” The conductor replied, “That would be second fiddle. I can always find plenty of first violinist, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, that’s a problem. Yet, if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”

The first violin is traditionally placed at the end of the row to the immediate left of the conductor. This musician plays the note to which all instruments then are tuned. When each musician is satisfied with tuning adjustments of their instrument, there is a moment of quiet. Then the conductor steps to the podium where has been placed a music stand that supports the full musical notations for each instrument. The conductor, in raising the baton, signals that the musicians are to position themselves and their instrument in readiness for the first note to be played.

The conductor is the only participant that fully hears the sound of individual instruments; and, who knows the notations set before each player. This person is responsible for maintaining the designated rhythm and the balance of sound. The dynamics of the performance, those moments at which there is a softness, brightness, heaviness or some direction given that effectively connects the listener with the performance is specific to each conductor. Conducting is more than just the movement of one’s arms.

It was noticeable, at least to me, that the brass section had begun late and that the conductor was attempting to fix the situation. The woodwinds instead increased speed. The attention of the percussionists was now fixed not upon the baton of the conductor but the confusion taking place on the opposite side of the stage. There was a chaotic sound. The strings, led by the first violinist, came to a halt seeing that the arms of the conductor had fallen to his side. Slowly the music died.

There we were in the grand lobby of the prestigious Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. Both the audience and musicians dressed in formal attire. The Governor and the “Who’s Who” of Richmond were in attendance. For what seemed a long time for me, trying to hold back nervous laughter, the conductor stood quietly still facing the orchestra. Then he turned and with a great smile said to the audience, “Now that was a most horrifying performance. But please do not leave. I am confident that after such a false start, you will presently hear something very close to perfection.” He looked over his shoulder to the orchestra and said, “Now having the full attention of everyone in the room. Let us proceed.” For the following hour, it was a magnificent concert and worthy of the standing ovation given to the conductor.

The conductor could have just as easily said directly to the orchestra, “now having your full attention.” Instead of rebuke directed at the performers, he shared his vision to the whole gathering of what was possible. The anxious atmosphere of the room dissipated. He did indeed have the eyes of all upon the confident movements of his arms as he skillfully directed throughout the concert.

I pray that as we are challenged by the problems of this world, we will not seek to simply keep the music going in hopes that we end on the same note at the same time. We have a conductor with a vision who seeks to have our eyes completely upon him. His name is Jesus. The one who seeks to save us from ourselves.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Sam

SAM ASKEW is pastor of Windsor Congregational Christian Church. Contact him at 242-4794.