Thursday, October 29, 2009

Superpowers 101: Finding Harmony

I have always liked music. One of my strongest memories is attending Stake Conference as a child and being overwhelmed by the sound of the large congregation singing. My skin tingled, my heart raced, I could feel the music reverberate inside of me. Even then I was overwhelmed with the sensation. I still love that feeling.

The music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is Mack Wilberg. Several years ago, I had the privilege of "studying under him" while a student at BYU. I say it that way because I was not one of his students. He directed the BYU Men's Chorus then. A few of my friends and I would sometimes attend the Men's Chorus practice. We sat quietly in the very last row of the small auditorium, listening to some 200 young men sing. It was wonderful!

During those rehearsals, Dr. Wilberg would often correct the singers. Sometimes they obviously needed it. They would be out of rhythm or singing badly out of tune. Other times, I didn't know what he was upset about. He would stop the choir and point to a few young men and say "one of you three are flat" or "First tenors are sharp again. Get it right." I never felt that he was exactly mean about it, he just seemed to hear something I didn't.

When a group was struggling with a certain part of a song, Dr. Wilberg would sometimes make a gesture like he was tuning a radio. Over time, I was able to recognize when they were off key and when they got it right. The change was subtle but it made a big difference. 
Many times, I listened to their songs, eyes closed, enjoying that same feeling I had as a child, completely satisfied with the beauty and power. Dr. Wilberg apparently did not agree. I would feel irritated that he had stopped them again for some minor mistake. But when they sang with the mistake corrected, the sound changed. Suddenly, I was not hearing 200 young men singing together but one overwhelming voice. I can't explain it any better. When they got it right, when they were perfectly in harmony, that is when the hairs on my head stood up!

I often think of that experience, not because of how moving it could be but because of the symbolism of what I witnessed.  Any time I hear about being "in tune with the Spirit" or becoming more refined in our obedience, or anything else that suggests making a correction in life, I think of this experience.

I imagine my life as hundreds of little voices, each trying to find a pitch and a rhythm. Some of them may be doing just what they need to while others need attention...LOTS of attention! Sometimes I feel like Dr. Wilberg, trying ever so lightly to tune the dial on my "singers". That one little thing is just not quite right and if I could only adjust it a tiny bit.... I recall the frustration he expressed when it wasn't working. I feel that too. I think "I know this can be better. I just can't quite get it the way it should be."

There are two more lessons I have learned from this experience.  First; when Dr. Wilberg was hard on his Men's Chorus, it wasn't because he was mean or unrealistic. He knew what the music could sound like and wanted them to know it too. Second, those young men could not make those necessary corrections on their own. They needed someone else to listen and tell them when they made a mistake and help them fix it.

In that same way, we all need the Savior to help us make the necessary corrections in our lives. He knows what our lives can be, what we can be, and wants us to succeed. He is the one with experience and knowledge. He is listening, giving us signals, stopping us if need be, to bring our lives into perfect harmony. 

1 comment:

Greg, Rebecca & Timothy Neslen said...

Amy, Thanks for the memory and the insight. I can feel exactly what you are explaining. I hope we can all feel that harmony in our lives all the time. Until then....