The inaugural scores that floated from the organ at Schemmerhorn Saturday evening in Nashville were powerful enough to sink beneath stoic faces and fill hearts with inspiration. I didn't know what to expect. I sat down in the box and looked out on the still-life of faces along the balcony's edge and that filled the entire floor. The idea of quiet thoughts in bubbles above the black ties occurred to me while I too waited in silence for the first chords to fill the hall. The beautiful organ faced the front of the stage and had three keyboards and another for the feet. Surrounding the organ in a semicircle was the orchestra. It felt like the powerful music with the amazing orchestra behind it was able to paint sweeping pictures from its blending of layered sounds. It was like watching a dancer as the organist moved through the first piece. I enjoyed getting lost in the tiny sound of the triangle and then being swept up in the booming volume of all the pieces playing together.
The second piece began, and I glanced down and noticed it was written during WWII by a man who composed it for his friend who had been killed. The composer worked in a church and wrote the piece out of love and grief for his friend. Immediately it gave the piece power for me as I connected both to working in a church during the time of war and wanting to do something beautiful in the name of love and peace. The notes at the beginning of the piece were filled with power and the organ's sad and regal sound felt like it was vibrating in my chest. Unannounced images from the struggles of men and women in our city and in our country rose in me from that music. I remembered seeing the iron fence at Fisk with the date 1865 bent in fired steel calling out the end of the civil war and the beginning of the University. Those iron numbers preach that you can't kill hope. I thought about the first time I preached about "blessed are the peace makers" from the pulpit and how scared I felt when a couple of families were mad at me.
As the music rose I felt empowered and inspired to preach about peace again. I thought about the man in the church first playing this music and weeping for his dead friend and how the music made him want to keep going. I thought about how all the protesting around this city seems kind of feeble at times and how this music gives it dignity and permanence in the heart of a culture. I was sitting next to a Federal Judge and thought about the first time I protested a war at the Federal Building on Broadway and how excited I was. I was sitting behind John Seignthaler and thought about our city in the great civil rights movement and how proud we are of those who ultimately stand for justice in their lives. I thought about all the people fighting war and the nobility of fighting and the nobility of protesting fighting. It was the music. It was inspirational and haunting. Words would have lessened its power. It is a great gift to this city.