‘Twas a dizzyingly moveable feast of music. Within barely more than one brief rotation of our terrestrial orb I have had my soul opened to the finest music that we humans and the Divine have to offer.
The morning sun’s lifting over the Osa Peninsula in southern Costa Rica once again orchestrates a fugal flood of God’s most elegant song birds. Our guide Abraham slings his scope and tripod over shoulder, leading Lorraine and me down slender trails through the leafy jungle. Somewhere, amidst this dense ramage, bellbirds cello, pink-legged woodrails trill, tanagers staccato, and the clay-colored thrush lets loose the sweet stab of a call that has won him the honor of Costa Rica’s National bird. Thousands join the chorus – even sun-dappled pairs of macaws lend their raucous cries to this symphonic surge of life.
Compared to Abraham, Lorraine and I cannot find a lion in our living room, but with his tutelage and our binoculars we try to poke our eyes where bodies could not possibly penetrate – to spy the sources of this symphony in the bush. With each bird sighted comes an almost disenchanting ease at their songs. Such magnificent rhapsodies so effortlessly, so spontaneously brought forth – and yet enchanting beyond telling.
Then, suddenly – thanks to the near-magical mechanics of today’s travel, and scores unseen assisting hands – here Lorraine and I sit: a mere tanager’s swoop from virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell and the Academy of St. Martins in the Fields Orchestra performing Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1. (After landing at Newark airport, a friend raced us home with enough time to pick up our tickets and arrive back at Newark’s NJ Performing Arts Center for the 8 p.m. curtain.) Poised concentration etched Bell’s face and passion poured through his agile fingers and on into the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius which delivered his mastery. That same awe of the Avian’s morning’s symphony returned. Again, we paused, still, amazed that such beauty was ours for the hearing…reveling in the sounds and letting our souls crescendo and descend with the moment of the music.
But with this second concerto an additional emotion kept creeping in: admiration. Joshua Bell had labored admirably, astoundingly, to achieve this pinnacle of performance. The untold thousands of hours of practice, the hundreds of thousands of hours of his fellow musicians in the orchestra, had prepared them for this soul-enriching experience we were sharing. And even during the performance, each measure of music hung precariously on that instant’s expertise.
The entire house rose to its feet and applauded the artists – none more enthusiastically than Lorraine and I. To compare the morning’s vs. the evening’s symphony would be ludicrous. Both transformed and uplifted me. Both were divinely inspired. Yet walking out of NJPAC into the evening air, the truth of this beauty became clear: whatever the source we are better for seeking it; we should accept it with gratitude; and while beauty’s creation comes with easy spontaneity for some and only with sweat for others, it always God’s best within us.
– Bart Jackson