MUSIC and the other Arts- A FORETASTE OF GLORY DIVINE
Driving home from work a couple of months ago I listened to a program about Choral Music on NPR which featured choirs mainly from historically African-American, predominantly Black colleges and traced the history and evolution of their music. I ended up with a driveway moment when I got home, you know, I had to wait in the car until the program came to an end before I got out. The music was going straight to my bone marrow, so to speak
That same evening I saw a presentation on television by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir of their live CD “I ‘m Amazed”. This choir has members with origins across all five continents yet sings one song of praise. As I listened and watched them sing, all I kept saying was “aha mpo ni na osuro hor”. Literally translated from the Twi language, this means “if this is how beautiful it can be on this earth, consider how it would be like in heaven”. Unfortunately there is always some loss of meaning in translation, sorry about that.
I sometimes wonder what it was like for the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem to hear the choirs of Heavenly Hosts sing of the birth of our Lord on that glorious night. These Angels of Heaven who are not subject to a fallen world like ours surely sang in a way that my mortal mind can barely begin the grasp. The occasion of the birth of the Savior of the world must have made the music even more glorious, if that were possible.
I love music, all kinds of music, any good music whether classical, reggae, the highlife music of West Africa, gospel (the genre), rap (asking for trouble) and jazz. The very first time I head the Third Movement of Mendelssohn’s Violin concerto in E minor, was on BBC Radio 3 and I just stood still completely mesmerized by the almost melancholic call of the violin solo. It brought up for me images of “the sound of Rachel crying in the desert and refusing to be comforted”( Jeremiah 31:15) and the grand finale exuded a sense of the “hope for the future” (Jeremiah 31:17) and the New Covenant to come that is declared from verse 31 to the end of the chapter. I was almost reduced to tears by the beauty of the melody and the magnificence and skill of the instrumentalist. I knew I had to get a recording of that music by any means, legal or illegal.
Good music sooths and uplifts the soul. Good secular or neutral music often does accomplishes this but good Christian music written by an inspired child of God can make the human spirit soar and have a foretaste of glory divine, to borrow from the phrase used by Fanny Crosby in the great hymn Blessed Assurance
I recall listening to a program about Handel’s Messiah on the BBC World Service many years ago on my shortwave radio in Ghana and I heard that Handel had confided in a friend that while writing the music he had an experience in which he saw Heaven and a vision of the Son of Man. That comes as no surprise to me because that music often draws my spirit being and soul to great heights while still on this earth.
I also think that when a secular musician writes or performs a song which touches us either by the lyrics, the musical melody, the arrangement or the skill of the performers, that is still a gift from God and I consider it to be in the universal providence of God, common Grace if you like, given to all mankind; the Good God causing “the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the wicked and righteous alike. I feel that way about the music of the late Bob Marley. His classic anthem “No Woman No Cry” talks about hard times past which I can identify with, yet it has an uplifting “everything is going to be alright” theme. It is not the gospel and it does not come any where near the message of the redeeming Gospel of Christ, but it is still uplifting.
Personally, I fancy myself as an aspiring bass guitarist but that opinion is limited to one person, me. When I exercise my vocal cords or chords, I am incapable of holding a song in key without the support of a multitude of believers in a congregation and I can’t sing myself out of a jammed shower door but, like all dreamers, I often let it out in the bathroom. On occasion my wife would tap the door and ask “are you alright in there?’ Of course I am, I tell her. I am just practicing for the day when we will receive perfect bodies in the New Jerusalem, where there will be nothing but voices with perfect pitch, virtuoso violinists, pianists, drummers and atentenben(1) players. Where the Waltz, Boborbor, Kpalongo(3) and Tango dancers will be skilled beyond what we could ever imagine.
Not something to miss. The good news is that the banquet invitations are still out and the door is open to anyone who will believe and receive the Christ. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). - Robbo
Notes. (1) atentenben – Ghanaian flute made from the bamboo plant.
(2) Boborbor and Kpalongo - Ghanaian recreational dance forms