Music Brings People Together
Way back in the “B.C.” era (Before COVID) of 2019, I had the pleasure of listening to the world’s foremost cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, play a free concert at Millenium Park in Chicago. Millennium Park claims a capacity of 11,000 people. Some estimates of the number of people gathered inside — and outside — the park’s borders were double that. Why did so many Chicagoans turn up for some cello music?
The program was simple: Yo-Yo Ma would perform the Six Suites for Solo Cello by J.S. Bach. No orchestra. No other instruments. Just one artist, one cello, and 20,000 listeners.
Certainly Yo-Yo Ma himself was a draw. He’s deservedly well known as a surpassingly skillful artist. Even so, I was awestruck by the number and diversity of people who assembled to listen. In close proximity to my family’s picnic blanket were moms, dads, five-year-olds, teenage friends, senior citizens, folks of every race and ethnicity — an amazingly diverse collection of humans.
This diversity of people implies the real reason that so many thousands of Chicagoans were drawn to listen to cello music past sunset and into the dark of night: The generosity of the music of Yo-Yo Ma.
It was apparent from the first stroke of his bow that the happiest man in the entire park was Yo-Yo Ma himself. This artist took such delight in performing the melodies born of Bach’s genius and sharing them free of charge with people from all walks of life. Classical music fans know when to clap and when to stay silent, but on this evening, there was no way to stay silent for long. The power of music inspired not only inappropriately timed clapping, but whooping and hollering in a way that seemed like a community-wide “Amen.”
Yo-Yo Ma played for two-and-a-half hours straight. No intermissions. No break. Incredibly, no one left. No one grew impatient. The generous power of music brought all of us listeners together for a time. I kept thinking, “If Cello melodies can perform a miracle like this, what might be possible for humans when we actually sing together for the glory of God?”
This Sunday in worship at Elmhurst CRC, we will play host to Cellissimo, a local group of 10 talented young cellists. They possess a similar spirit of generosity to the patron saint of modern cellists, Yo-Yo Ma. I’m hoping and praying that this Sunday’s service will have a similarly generous vibe to that amazing evening in Millenium Park back in 2019 B.C. Maybe that is too modest a prayer given that what happens on Sunday takes place in Jesus’s name, the author of history’s ultimate act of generosity.
May you be blessed with some musical and spiritual generosity this week.