Thursday, April 9, 2009

Faure, Liszt, and Silence

The Good Friday service at Bethany will include a wealth of good music, scriptural readings, and silence. The choir will perform selections from Faure's Requiem. It is a dramatic and challenging choral work that uses the text for the Catholic mass for the dead. I encourage you not to let the Latin text create distance between yourself and the music. Instead, use the beauty and drama of the work to enhance your Good Friday meditation.

I will be playing Liszt's Consolation III on the piano during the worship service. It's a piece that I have played numerous times for Holy Week over the years. To my ears, it conveys not just the heartbreak of the Passion week but also the hope and calm - the "fear not" message of Christ's ministry.

Finally, the service will include a great deal of silence for meditation. There will be no prelude and no postlude because Good Friday is part of the larger worship experience of Holy Week, not an independent service. For musicians, silence is the necessary space that surrounds a piece of music and that gives it shape, definition, and meaning. The moment before a musician plays is universally a time to take a deep breath and prepare. The moment after a piece ends - before any applause or movement begins - that is often the most beautiful and sacred moment of a piece of music.

Music is literally all around us - not just the junk elevator music and the noise from our ipods. Our hearts keep a beat; trees rustle and the wind whistles; trains and traffic and the conversations of passers-by can coalesce into a symphony; our homes and offices are filled with the sounds of furnaces and the hum and clicking of computers. Even when we are alone and quiet, there is a current of music running through our lives. The silence of Good Friday is a needed corrective to get past the "noise" of life to the contemplation of the beauty of the music of our lives and the story of the Passion narrative.

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