It's funny how sometimes you can go into an experience expecting it to be something to just survive, and instead find yourself really moved by it.
Such was certainly the case with the Christmas concert I played this afternoon with a mostly-volunteer orchestra of which I am a paid section leader. After enduring yesterday's overly long and overly loud rehearsal (amateurs have three dynamic levels: loud, louder, and loudest), I arrived in my concert black this afternoon without high hopes for the performance.
The concert venue, a large Catholic church, was packed to capacity. As we played holiday favorites like "White Christmas," "O Holy Night," and carol sing-alongs, I found myself captivated by the faces of the audience members. I don't think there was a face in the crowd without a smile. They were delighted by the soprano soloist, they beamed throughout Tchaikovsky's "Waltz of the Flowers," and they applauded wildly for the toothless six-year-old who sang "All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth" (who was, not incidentally, the great-granddaughter of the writer of the song).
For an hour today, hundreds of people left behind the difficulties of their everyday lives and were transported to a place of joy through the orchestra's music, imperfect though it may have been.
We ended the concert with the song, "Let There Be Peace On Earth." A cheesy song, and not one I get particularly excited about playing every December. And, as is the annual tradition at this particular concert, the audience members joined hands across the aisles and sang as we played.
Peace on earth. A very large thing to ask for, indeed. Impossible, I suppose. And in the face of global warfare, suffering, and terrorism, a few hundred people joining hands in a church seems like such a small thing.
But I watched the concert's costumed Santa Claus reach out and touch a severely mentally and physically disabled boy's arm, saw his mother's face shine with grateful happiness. I saw the young brother and sister who had poked each other and squabbled throughout the concert join hands, the younger brother resting his head on his sister's shoulder. I saw homeless and disabled people beside the city's mayor and the church's priest, singing side by side.
And I thought, to that boy's mother, to the parents of the sister and brother, to the people in that church today...
Perhaps it wasn't such a small thing, after all.