The three note symphony

Photo: The sun breaks through the rain

Open the Floodgates of Heaven
Open the Floodgates of Heaven



I’m in a television studio watching the recording of a talk show. The hostess is a youngish woman whose usual topics I consider to be, well, a bit shallow. The person she is interviewing this time is a composer and conductor. I don’t recognize him, but she seems a bit out of her depth.

She starts the interview by admitting she knows very little about music, but always wished she had some talent in that area, especially that she could sing.

The composer tells her anyone can have a part in making great music. He demonstrates three simple notes for her to sing (do, so, mi) and gets her to sing along with him …do, so, mi…do, so,mi…do,so,mi…

He tells her not to stop, then picks up a clarinet and starts weaving a tune around her three notes as she concentrates on singing.

A classical guitar joins them. The music I hear in my dream is soft and gentle and quite pretty.

Gradually more instruments join in –a cello playing continuo, a violin, a French horn, each adding to the melody making it more complex but still very lovely.

As I listen I close my eyes and the sounds become ribbons of colours winding around each other to weave a three-dimensional  tapestry. The tension and drama in the music rise to a crescendo that blasts a trombone fanfare of thunder. Staccato flutes and harps and pizzicato violins ping like raindrops gathering into rivulets, streams and a mighty river.  I see waves of sound surging through the valleys like floods in the desert. I see trees on the hillsides growing and producing ripe fruit as soon as the blossoms and leaves emerge. I see fields of ripe wheat waving in rhythm and sunlight piercing through dark blue-grey bruised banks of cloud. I fly over the earth like I am riding on the wings of an eagle.

I am carried away by the sound of the most marvellously beautiful symphonic music I have ever heard. In the dream it seems to last for hours. I ride on the wings of song played by a thousand instruments. I’m sailing over mountains and coastlands, forests and oceans, gliding through waterfalls and mists over mossy green islands.

Gradually the instruments drop out one at a time, like the droplets in a heavy downpour diminuendo from summer downpour, to shower, to sprinkles. I have been so immersed in the music, trying so hard to remember the themes that I have completely forgotten about the woman in the TV studio. As the music simplifies I hear the violin fade out, the guitar stop and I am again in the studio. The composer is left performing a duet with the woman who has her eyes shut in concentration. Her mouth is still open. She is still singing the three notes, catching up to composer’s rhythm after taking a deep breath every once in a while.

The entire symphony was composed and played around her three notes.

He ends the song gently, quietly, sweetly, and she opens her eyes in amazement.

He smiles.

The woman and I both gasp. We recognize him. It is the Master Composer. The great conductor. The Creator of all things. He turns and looks at me kindly. He disappears.

I wake up.

I rush for a pencil and manuscript paper but when I sit at the piano to write the music down, it disappears like a vapour of memory.

For hours I want only to go back to sleep so I can enter the dream again, but both sleep and the dream elude me. I pace around my house in frustration.

Later I call my friend and tell her about it.

“Do you think the woman represented me? If that was me what are my three notes?”

I no longer have the voice I once had. I know the great arias, I sing them in my head, but when I open my mouth the sound I expect to hear is not there anymore. I used to be a coloratura soprano. Nothing was too high or too ornate. I had great reviews, ovations, attention, “so much potential.” I thought my voice was my ticket to earning a place of respect in this world; it made me feel strong; it made me feel like there was some little piece of beauty in an otherwise plain person from a poor family. I studied for years –then my health failed, and my voice failed with it. Now…it’s better after people prayed for me, but, it’s just not the same. It hurts to think about singing in public, or even in private sometimes. Letting go of my identity as a singer took years of mourning.

I said to her, “Tell me, if I have only small range left what do  you think my three notes are?”

She didn’t hesitate. “He has shown you, O woman, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” ( a paraphrase of Micah 6:8)

I know she is right.

Jesus Christ is the great composer. He takes what we can give and multiplies it into something way beyond our imagination.

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