Every now and then I like to stimulate the gray matter by cogitating on some of the great mysteries of life. To be sure, there are many.
One worth pondering is what happens to us when we die? Does our soul live on in some plane beyond this earth? Some believe the soul will come back to earth and take up residence in another body i.e. a do-over. Others take the position that nothing happens. We die. End of story.
No matter what cultural or religious beliefs we hold on the subject, I will most likely continue to see it as one of life’s great question marks. That said, there is one thing as it relates to the subject that I do know: If I get a do-over, I would like to come back as a musician/composer/songwriter. Yes, I have fun making music with my harmonicas but I’m talking serious stuff here. The kinds of music that affects the range of human emotions, from tears to laughter to wanting to jump up and dance to shouting “Bravo” at the top of your lungs. Take your pick.
Example: I recently watched the Kennedy Center Honors on TV. Among the honorees was the musical group Led Zeppelin. I know who they are but know little of their music. The house band, along with guest musicians, played some of their music, which Zeppelin bandmates Jimmy Paige, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones were enjoying. It was on the final song, “Stairway to Heaven,” that a curtain went up to reveal a choir of young voices on a riser behind the band. As the camera swung from the stage to the balcony, I noticed Plant wipe his left eye. The power of music.
As one who appreciates many genres of music, I know how I feel when I listen to music that is played well. Some pieces affect me more than others. But there is more. I want to know what it is like to be on the other side of the line that separates musician from listener. To cause someone to wipe a tear from his eye.
I’m thinking back to some of the live music I’ve enjoyed in the past year and what it meant and continues to mean to me.
I’ve been watching the metamorphosis of my daughter Chilali as a harpist for a quarter of a century, from a knee-high-to-a-grasshopper neophyte to the professional musician she is today. Being that she lives in Logan, Utah, and is the harp instructor in the Caine School of the Arts at Utah State University, I don’t get to hear her play very often. So when Chilali informed her family that she would be performing the harp concerto by Alberto Ginastera with the USU Symphony Orchestra, I took a cross-country drive to take in the concert. I enjoyed the entire program but the concerto, ah, now that was something special.
Chilali’s husband, Chris Scheer, who is professor of music history at USU, said it best when he told me that from his vantage point in the concert hall you could have heard a pin drop when Chilali was playing. I think it is safe to say Chilali and the orchestra had the audience under their collective musical spell. Again, the power of music.
Jeff Yoder is my wife Karen’s nephew and he enjoys making music with his guitar. So much so that he is a member of the band Kansas Bible Company. The name comes from the movie “Paper Moon.” They are an 11-member rock band from Nashville who write their own music and share it with the world via recordings and performances.
I wasn’t sure if I would like their sound when I first heard the music. Just because your nephew is assaulting your eardrums (just kidding, Jeff) doesn’t mean you have to like it. But I’m willing to give most anything a first, maybe even second chance.
If you really want to appreciate any music, I think you have to hear it in the flesh. Rock or symphonic — live is best. I’ve seen KBC perform in Louisville, Cincinnati and Toledo, and their music continues to grow on me. Could it be the enthusiasm, the passion of a bunch of 20-somethings?
On Dec. 29, the band played its first gig in its namesake Kansas at the wedding of Jeff’s brother Aaron and his new bride Mary. They called it a barn dance, but a metal machine shed with its associated trappings is a more accurate description of the venue. No matter. You couldn’t see your breath but warm jackets, hats, a stove and lots of body heat added to the ambience of the place.
The gathering at hand enjoyed the music as evidenced by the dancing. Karen asked me to dance, and I followed suit with my daughter Dyani. I wouldn’t be too far off if I said Mary’s nearly 80-year-old Grandpa Byram cut a pretty good rug to the sounds of KBC. Call it a blending of the generations.
On a cold winter night under a silver moon in the Flint Hills of Kansas a band of young musicians gave the newlyweds and their families and friends one of the best gifts of all — live music. And perhaps, a bit of love thrown in.
Not to keep beating a dead note but that’s the power of music, the connection between musicians and their audience. Bravo!
As I said in the beginning, I don’t know what’s gonna happen after I die. Mystery can be a good thing. But if I get to have a say in the matter, I want to experience that power I’ve been talking about, but from the other side — of a guitar or a harp, that is.