The Sounds We Need to Hear
Occasionally, often just in the nick of time, something happens in our lives that brings us back to an equilibrium, a place where things seem normal, even in the face of most unusual things.
The past few weeks have brought a tsunami of things that should bring concern to all of us. Given this is the political season, it is almost impossible not to frame these times in terms of politics. A debate debacle. A national resurgence of COVID-19 positive cases. A Supreme Court Justice’s death just a month before a national election.
The president tested positive for the coronavirus, along with three senators, his campaign manager, his press secretary, and another two dozen highly ranked people within the highest levels of our government.
I have loved politics my entire life, the intrigue, the give and take, the working across the aisle, the political maneuvers, even the game itself, but have never seen anything like this.
These are different times. This year has worn me out, made me cynical, and led me to question some of the bedrock beliefs I have about the foundation of our democracy.
That is why I want to tell you about this past Sunday afternoon in Auburn. My wife and I attended an outdoor concert of the Auburn Community Orchestra at Kiesal Park. The large gazebo there is a perfect setting for such an event. Under the acres of pecan trees, volunteers had painted rectangular spaces to indicate where small groups could sit.
The orchestra itself was constrained by COVID-19 limitations. They presented three short sets showcasing strings, woodwinds, and brass and percussion. The divided sets were necessary to socially distance the entire orchestra. The result was to hear the different parts on their own, something that is almost never showcased.
The setting was perfect as the sun started its descent. People had brought chairs, food, hammocks, and blankets. A few bottles of wine discretely appeared, though poured in red solo cups rather than crystal wine glasses.
The many dogs on leases initially added their own sounds to the orchestra before they settled in. Three trains passed in the one hour and fifteen-minute concert, along with one private plane and one helicopter.
Small children glanced at their reflections in the pond. Older people came in walkers and wheelchairs. Masks were almost uniformly worn, at least until the people were seated, at a safe distance from their neighbors.
The strings began first. The various instruments sound the same, blending in such a smooth harmony. The woodwinds spoke in different voices, at different times, as if they were talking to each other. The brass and percussion spoke with power and authority.
It was the music that brought such a peace and calm to the assembled crowd. I saw a couple leaning against the pecan tree, gently tapping their toes. Nearby, an older couple drank their favorite wine as they gently held and rubbed each other’s hand.
There was the small child exuberantly dancing to the music, reflecting the sheer joy that can often come with hearing this universal language. Even the birds seemed to be mimicking the wonderful sounds they were hearing. Who knows, perhaps they were mockingbirds.
It seemed somehow fitting that I ran into my old friend from Donalsonville, Amy Jones Wells, at the concert. Her mother and I played the organ and piano together for many years at the Presbyterian Church. Amy and I played many a duet in that same church. Music brought us together decades ago and music brought us together again on this beautiful fall day.
It was a calm, peaceful afternoon, filled with the sounds of music that spanned generations. This is the language that transcends our differences. It appealed to people of different social backgrounds, color, and political persuasions.
Sunday was a gift. The concert was a calm respite from the storms that swirl around us. It gave me hope for the future. It soothed my soul. It was the type of sound that I needed to hear, that we all desperately need to hear.