I have written of my love for music, and when I saw that one of the prompts for today was brio, meaning vivacity and energy, I immediately thought of a concert I went to many years ago that featured the great trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis. I had some of his albums, but I had never witnessed him play in person, and I was somewhat afraid that he would not be as good in person. But, nearly thirty years later, his performance with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is still the best musical exhibition I have ever attended.
The atmosphere was electric that night, as concertgoers stood waiting for the doors of Symphony Hall in Atlanta to open. I was alone that night, determined to not let my fears of being out and about in the night prevent me from experiencing what had been described as a one-in-a-million chance to hear Wynton Marsalis in person.
I stood separate from the others, trying to enter my usual cocoon of invisibility and protection, but I found that I could not escape the shroud of anxious anticipation that enveloped the crowd and made us of one heart, mind, and soul, all yearning for the beautiful music that would emanate from that young man. When the doors opened and we poured in to our seats, people were smiling at each other, including me, as if we were long-lost friends about to share a moment that would bond us together forever.
The lights were turned down, and suddenly there was the blast of a trumpet note, and it was on! He made that trumpet speak to us in ways that brought everyone out of their seats. No strident notes were heard, for he played with a God-given brio, and his passion for the instrument and for entertaining people through his instrument was obvious to all.
As he played song after song, I marveled at his God-given talent, for no one can do what he can do with the trumpet except by heavenly arrangement. God gave him not only talent, but a love for music and a deep sense that his calling was to share the music, for when he plays, I can feel the presence of God’s hands on his life and on my own. It was we all should do with the talents and gifts God gives us to share.
You would have thought that he was playing for his friends, and indeed he was, because fellow music lovers are like old friends who know us, for they identify with the same joyous sounds that bring us so much happiness and reaffirms our thankfulness to be alive. Every note entered my heart, and the trumpet, along with tinkling of the piano keys, deep chords of the bass, the blaring of the horns, and the staccato of the drums, was a wilderness, or a bewildering collection, of harmonies for the soul.
At each of the cities in which Mr. Marsalis and the orchestra performed, he would allow the band member who was from that city to perform a solo with anyone they chose. In our case, it was a young man who played the clarinet while his mother scatted like she was Ella Fitzgerald’s twin sister! You could see and feel the joy they shared for a moment that they both had hoped might happen since he was a youngster! There were cries of “Attaboy!” for both mother and son.
When the concert ended, there was sadness to see it end but real contentment to have been there and enjoyed such a classic performance from a wonderfully talented musician. The standing ovation that followed was so prolonged that he and the orchestra kept playing encores! Finally, he walked off the stage, with our appreciation still ringing loud in his ears! The notes stayed in my heart all the way home and into the next week.
When I listen to his records today, I continue to thank God for Wynton Marsalis, his talent, and his passion. But, most of all, I thank God for the courage to put my fears aside and go out alone that night. It was a night I will never forget!