Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Monday, January 5, 2009

They're not from Siberia & it's not an orchestra:

As a Christmas present my son and daughter-in-law took us to the final performance (this year) of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I come from a small town, and don't get out much, so to speak, so it probably won't surprise you to hear me say that I had never seen anything like this in my life.

The following is not a review or an analysis, but merely a few observations. If it begins a profitable conversation, so be it.

The program is an intriguing--maybe wierd would be a better description--combination of classical, traditional, and rock music. When I say "rock" I'm talking about old hard rock. The guitar solos sounded like the little bit of Jimmy Hendricks that I remember. I could see a friend of mine, back in his hard-rocking days playing the stuff.

The musicians and singers are all incredibly talented. One operatic type piece in particular showed off the voice of one of the sopranos. The two pianists--and they preferred this title, though they played electronic keyboards--were superb. My pianist wife was very impressed. I have no doubt that my grandson would have loved the drummer. I am less able to judge the expertise of the other performers, except one I'll mention in a moment, so I'll simply say, I was impressed.

As a preacher, I very much appreciate the skillful use of the spoken word. The narrator for the evening was superb. I only wish that that music would have been less loud when he was speaking so that I would be able to hear him better.

As I said earlier, I don't go to many concerts, and I've never been to anything like this, but I can't imagine how anyone could put on a greater laser, light, smoke, and fire show than what went on with this concert. Just watching the various apparatus was entertaining in itself.
Maybe one of you will do the research, but I can't begin to guess how many millions of dollars worth of stuff there was in the huge U.T. arena.
I found the effect that it all had on me somewhat like when I entered the Cathedral in Ulm, Germany--sensory overload.
The first half of the program told a story, On our way back to the car the four of us discussed what it meant. I suspect that asking that question showed I didn't quite get it; I figure it was something more to be felt than analyzed. My son observed that the story of Christmas--Jesus coming to earth--is so compelling that it cannot be ignored. The building blocks of this part of the program, were God, angels, the Biblical story of Christ's birth, man's need for love and belonging, and the desire for something that transcends this war-torn scarred world in which we live. Classic Christmas music was the thread used to weave the musical tapestry of the program.
While I enjoyed the tale, in the same way that one enjoys a well-told Fairy-tale--in this case a Fairy-tale on steroids--I found it somewhat sad. Leaving aside the hard-rock and the glitzy special effects for a moment, the program perfectly captured the mood of Christmas and totally missed the substance. I see thousands of much less inexpensive productions that have exactly the same shortcoming.
This part of the program was filled with concepts and words that had to do with enchantment, magic, hoping, and dreaming. The voice of the narrator did a great job of capturing an "aching-ness," a desire for something that would feed one's soul. In the same way that most of the thousands of people in the arena were seeking to fill a void in their lives with one more evening of entertainment, the program offered up solutions as illusive as the fog from the dry-ice, and as temporary as a pulse of light from one of the strobes. The impression was that reality is made up of little girls who don't come home, whiskey, hard-boiled bartenders, and nations at war. We can't stand that. So:
"If our kindness This day is just pretending ,
If we pretend long enough,
Never giving up,
It just might be who we are." (Promises to Keep,
Like much in our world today, the program pointed to what was missing, but was left with nothing but wishing to fill the aching void. The first half of the program was like a production of Ecclesiastes, worthy of Solomon, but missing the crucial "Conclusion of the whole matter." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
With the exception of some mega-churches with a staff dedicated to the production of mega-programs we cannot compete in creating the mood. We have the real story, though. We need to explore ways get that real story out.
In case you are wondering the second half of the program was just a collection of songs. Most had to do with Christmas, but is about all the connection I noticed.
Anyhow, thanks Chris and Nancy for a great evening. I'll continue to think about it for a good while.

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