Posts Tagged ‘band’

Joyful, Joyful




From the back row, no one can see

that the flute player’s white oxford shirt

is mis-buttoned. His dirty blonde hair

falls into his eyes. He tosses it back

with a flick of his head, picks up his instrument

and focuses his attention on the conductor.


With a lurch, the sixth-grade band launches

into the last section of Beethoven’s 9th,

and the familiar tune of Ode to Joy

brightens the dim auditorium.


The conductor keeps perfect time,

and the students, though stilted,

follow her rhythm. I think of Vienna,

1824, in the Theatre am Karntnertor,

when Beethoven himself stood on stage

at the end of his career to direct the premiere,

his first time on stage in twelve years.


Though he could not hear the symphony, he furiously

waved his arms in tempo, moving his body

as if to play all the instruments at once,

as if he could be every voice in the chorus.


And when it was done, the great composer

went on, still conducting, not knowing

it was over until the contralto soloist moved to him

and turned him to face the ovation.


With the greatest respect, and knowing

that applause could not reach him,

the audience members raised their hands and hats

and threw white handkerchiefs into the air,

then rose five times to their feet.


When the sixth grade band director

lowers her arms, the young musicians stop with her.

They rise and bow, and the audience claps

and some of the parents whoop.

And the students bow again, and again,

though the clapping is done.

They do not yet know how to carry pride

in their awkward bodies, and they stumble

and list off the stage.


The flute player’s black pants are too short

for his long thin legs. He is growing in ways

neither he nor his mother can understand.

There she is, weeping in the back row,

in her ears, in her heart, a song of joy.









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