Last night I attended a wonderful performance of Handel’s Messiah presented by the Church Music Division of New Orleans Baptist Seminary, where I teach. With the Hallelujah Chorus still ringing in my heart and mind this morning, I wanted to reflect on it.
Many people would agree that one of the most glorious pieces of music ever composed is the Hallelujah Chorus written by Georg Frederick Handel in 1741. Even though it is characterized as “classical music,” it is well-known by many who otherwise may not be very acquainted with classical repertory.
So, here’s a piece of trivia about Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. It was written in the key of D Major. Do you know how many times the four vocal parts sing the pitch of “D”? And which vocal part (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) sings the pitch “D” the most?
You might say that’s the most useless piece of data ever. Who cares? you say. It’s not how many times the individual pitches occur in a piece of music that make it a masterpiece, but it’s how those pitches are arranged and relate to all the other pitches in a particular sequence that somehow transcends ordinary musical elements (like individual pitches) into a work of art.
I would have to agree. Those individual pitches (like the pitch “D”) are employed in something far greater than themselves. How boring would the music be if it were comprised only of a single pitch? Yet, at the same time, the pitch is not unimportant. Have you ever tried to play a piano with one of its keys sticking and unable to sound? Do you know what that does to the song you are trying to play on the piano? Frustrating at the least! So, the individual pitches DO matter. But they don’t matter as much just by themselves. They matter in the bigger picture of the musical composition—the song!
So, how is this a birthday reflection, you ask?
Think of an individual’s life analogous to a single musical pitch. God created each life, each with its own birthday. Whenever we celebrate a person’s birthday, we are celebrating the date commemorating his or her arrival here on this earth. That’s a good thing to do, because every person created by God possesses the very breath and image of God and for that reason alone, that life matters. Sort of like the individual “pitch” we were discussing earlier. However, there is a bigger picture. Every human life was created for doxology, in order to bring praise and glory to our Heavenly Father. When the human being created by God comes to know “the Author of life” through Jesus Christ, imagine the potential for that life to pour out doxology to our Creator God!
But also imagine how an individual life may relate as a part of a larger community of humankind pouring out doxology to the Father in concert! The potential “praise effect” is far beyond what we can imagine this side of Heaven!
Back to our trivia question: (Drumroll………………!)
The pitch “D” is sung 406 times by the various voice parts in the Hallelujah Chorus. The sopranos win for the most “Ds”, singing that pitch a whopping 126 times! The basses come in a close second with 122 times. The tenors aren’t far behind with 115 times. And, the altos sing “Ds” 43 times. That’s a lot of reiterations of a single pitch! (Note: I actually counted them myself!) And “D” really contributes quite a lot to the construction of this profound piece of music—in concert with all the other pitches!
So, go ahead and celebrate someone’s birthday! Celebrate the giftedness, personality and contributions that are unique to the individual. And, at the same time, celebrate the bigger picture of the Body of Christ collectively on mission to share His Gospel with the world, resulting in an ever-expanding Hallelujah Chorus to the glory of our awesome God!