Tag Archives: music

Finding What We Were Looking For

Our journey to the U2 concert two weeks ago was more complicated than driving from our home to the stadium.

I bought the tickets for Mike in October 2009.  No, that is not a typo.

I gave them to him for Christmas that year, as we had always dreamed of seeing U2 live.  Seeing them in Seattle was second only to seeing them in Dublin, so we were both thrilled it was finally happening.

Like thousands of other fans, we were crushed when we got the email in March 2010 that Bono had hurt his back and the concert would be delayed.  We were absolutely slayed when they decided to delay it by an entire year to June 4, 2011;  it felt like they had said, “Whatever date sounds like it will absolutely never arrive — that is the new date of the concert.”

Toward the end of 2010, a couple in our Bible study announced their engagement.  We were utterly thrilled for them and so excited to watch them take the next step in their relationship.  We didn’t give a thought to the date they chose, because their wedding seemed close, and we thought the concert was impossibly far away…

…until one day in mid-April I was driving to lunch from work and heard the announcer on the radio excitedly mention the concert coming up on June 4.  I nearly careened off the road as I dove for my phone to call Mike in a panic.  He said we could talk about it that evening.

Talk we did.  Many times.  We even prayed about it, because the last thing we wanted was to hurt our friends’ feelings.  Finally, after much discussion, we figured out a way to honor their wedding and make one of our dreams come true — we would do both.  Thankfully, the fabulous bridal couple graciously understood.

I forgot to mention one little factor.  They planned to marry in Yakima, which is 2.5 hours outside of Seattle.

The wedding was at 4PM.  The concert was at 7PM.  This was going to require some James Bond Mike Reph driving skills.

We dressed for the wedding, packed alternate clothes for the concert, and made sure our tickets were in the glove box.  We hauled tail over the mountains to Yakima and made it there at 3PM so we could help with wedding duties.  The wedding was beautiful and we were so thankful we didn’t miss it.

We pulled away from the church at exactly 5PM and by 6:55PM we were circling Qwest Stadium.  Mike shaved 35 minutes off the drive time.  If that’s not James Bond, I don’t know what is (luckily Lenny Kravitz was the opener, so we took our sweet time snubbing the $50 parking lots in favor of the $15 spots half a mile away).

After arriving at the stadium, we realized we couldn’t find our section.  We walked back and forth between 236 and 238, but section 237 started to feel like the 13th floor of a hotel…nonexistent.

A concerned stadium guide saw my baffled expression and asked which section we were looking for.  “Oh!” she said.  “You’re on the club level!  It’s one more flight up!”

Club Level?

I didn’t buy Club seats!  I am far too cheap for such extravagance.  But buying them without knowing I was being a spendthrift was too good to be true.

We walked inside and gaped at the difference — 75% fewer people, no lines for the bathroom, and a far greater selection of food and drink.  Then we found that our seats were a mere six rows back from the balcony, our view was stellar, and we were on the aisle.

The whole situation was beginning to feel like a winning lottery ticket covered in sprinkles and delivered by carrier pigeon with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus in the background.

Without a doubt, the concert lived up to what we had hoped it would be.  I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I actually cried — more than once.  I couldn’t get over our deep sense of gratitude, the beauty of the music, and the magic of seeing the greatest band on Earth.

Knowing exactly how cheesy it would sound, but unable to contain myself, I turned to Mike in the middle of the concert and said, “Merry Christmas!”

He just laughed and pulled me in for a hug, which is how we stood for the rest of the song.

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Mas! Mas!

If I were a cheerleader, I’d cheer for Christmas.

Christmas has always been huge in my family — tons of decorations, celebrations, feasts, presents and Christmas Eve church services.  This year is the first Christmas I will spend apart from my family, and we’re a little sad about it.  We know it will be hard to be apart, but we’ll see each other several times before that day.

I’m using this time to examine my thoughts about Christmas, since Mike’s family’s traditions are very different from mine.  I’ve learned a lot about the history of Christmas through them and it’s given me much to consider.  I’ve learned that  Christmas shouldn’t have anything to do with Jesus or his birth, based on the fact that in the Bible neither Jesus nor anyone else says that we should remember His birthday (conversely, we are told to remember his death and resurrection) and in fact, we don’t even know His real birth date.

We can love and honor Christ apart from anything to do with popular holidays.  Rather than try to focus Christmas on Christ, they’ve explained, we should accept that the two have nothing in common and just celebrate it for what it is — good cheer, festivity, presents, family.  In essence, let’s take the Christ out of Christmas and let’s just have…mas.  In Spanish, that would be MORE.

And I’m always all for more.

In fact, I think I’m well on my way to more.  This December has already been decorated with several events that are indeed mas but have absolutely nothing to do with Christ.  Years ago (even last year) I would have felt a twinge of guilt for celebrating without focusing completely on Jesus, but now?  Bring on the mindless merriment!

Christmas Tree: To start our season, we got a tree.  Yes, it’s alive, and yes, it’s the same height as me:  five feet five inches.  We love our tree because it makes our home cozy and cheerful, it holds meaningful symbols (baby ornaments, second grade pictures of Mike, gifts from friends), and it delays us having to buy a new chair to fill the space it occupies.  (If you look closely, you can see a cross ornament…so I guess I haven’t figured this out quite yet.)

After all, Christmas trees were virtually forbidden by our colonial leaders in 1659, when a law was enacted that made any “heathen traditions” such as Christmas carols, decorations and trees a penal offense involving a fine.  We Rephs enjoy setting up our tree without paying a fine.

White Christmas: The same night that we got our tree, we attended “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” musical at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater.  Two other couples invited us to dress up and go out on the town, and we thought nothing could be more Christmasy than the stage version of the Bing Crosby movie (which I had only seen once and Mike had never seen).  It was uncomplicated, plump, shiny and almost too cheesy to bear — and that was entirely the point.  “May your days be merry and bright” indeed!

Tacky Themed Dress-Up Party: Every year we are invited to a number of parties that require an ugly sweater, santa hat, or this year, 80’s ski gear.  The only thing 80’s ski gear and Christmas have in common is snow, I suppose, but we went with it.  The results speak for themselves.

Cirque de la Symphonie: Certainly the highlight of the Christmas season so far was attending the mind-boggling circus acts performed in front of a full orchestra playing classic Christmas favorites.  Mike took me and my sisters to Benaroya Hall and we all gasped our way through this stellar performance.  Previous to this evening none of us had seen a man in a handstand on another man’s HEAD with only ONE HAND.

The champagne at intermission didn’t hurt, either.

White Elephant Gift Exchange Parties: Two of these are on the calendar this year, one of which happened at my workplace — I arrived with a bathrobe and departed with two bags of candy.  Lame.  And what could be less Christ and more mas than giving gifts that are utterly random?  Myrrh and gold are not random; those gifts were intentional, I assure you.

I totally respect those who see Christmas as a holy holiday, because I do too, to some degree.  After 25 years it’s virtually an innate response.  But I love examining why we do what we do, and seeing if we can do it differently and still be honorable.

After all, when it comes to Christmas carols, for every “…the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love,” there are just as many “…oh bring us a figgy pudding, oh bring us a figgy pudding, and a cup of good cheer.”

As for me?  This Christmas I’ll ponder the wonders of His love — while sipping a cup of good cheer.

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House of Worship

I will be the first to admit that the Coldplay concert on July 11 was epic.  It was intense, beautiful and incredibly well done.  Best of all, it was the only concert I have ever experienced that filled me with an indescribable joy from start to finish.   The music was euphoric; even their more somber songs were played with an air of triumph.  I have never seen anything like it.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I was ecstatic the entire set – literally jumping up and down for hours.  From the moment they entered the stage, I started screaming and bouncing at the sight of my favorite band.  Seeing them at The Gorge was ideal – it’s been named the best outdoor concert venue in the US, and that’s no exaggeration.  It’s stunningly gorgeous (no pun intended).

What happened next gave me pause:  during the first and second songs, I had tears in my eyes.  Two times, without warning, I felt like I was about to cry.  This had never happened before and I stopped jumping around for a moment to take stock.

Why would this make me emotional?  Why on earth was I acting like a teenage girl at a Beatles concert in 1965?  Chris Martin is NOT that good-looking.

Suddenly it occurred to me that it wasn’t the band that was sending me over the top, it was the collective experience.  Here I was among 30,000 people all singing the same lyrics, all fans of the same music, all happy together for three hours.  Where else can this be found?

Certainly not in Seattle.

Statistically, Seattle is the least-churched city in the US.  Given that absence, it’s no wonder that people are drawn to gathering by the thousands for a common interest such as a concert.   Where else in Seattle can one experience the community and fellowship of coming together to adore a single entity?  Where else can one stand among strangers and feel like you all have something in common?  Even sporting events can’t compare – they always involve competition.  The person sitting next to you could HATE the team you are rooting for.  At a concert, you are all there because you love the same performer.

As I was thinking about this, I had a flashback.  Two years ago, my father-in-law attended a Dave Matthews Band concert at The Gorge with me, Mike and all of our siblings.  Afterward, we eagerly asked him what he thought of it.  He paused, and then said, “It was a worship service.  Idolatry, really.”

Not critical, not positive or negative, just fact.

At first I thought, you can’t be serious.  What, we’re bowing down to gods made of stone? But he explained that today’s idols are really anything you put before God.  That could be musicians, actors, comic books, even your own beauty.

Then it was obvious; what I was experiencing was akin to going to a massive worship service — of Coldplay.

For me, it’s not too much of a stretch to fall into idol worship…but that’s less because of the music than because of their celebrity.  When they entered a smaller stage inside the crowd, just thirty feet from us, what did I do?  I bolted straight for them to get as close as the burly security guard would let me.  Why?  Because I idolize their talent and success.  And because, hello, the lead singer is married to Gwyneth Paltrow.  Need I write more?

It is fantastic to recognize that the music Coldplay creates is brilliant, but I have to remember the ability to create that music is God-given.   To recognize it as anything less is idol worship.  So while I’m amazed by what I’m hearing, I’m also thinking how incredible it is that we are created to create.  And that was the difference, I believe: I was in awe of the talent the Lord gives people, rather than being emotionally in awe of Chris, Will, Guy and Jonny.  And who wouldn’t be, with lyrics like this that make you feel invincible?

“Oh love, don’t let me go/Won’t you take me where the street lights glow?/I can hear rain coming like a serenade of sound/Now my feet won’t touch the ground.”  (Life in Technicolor II)

After considering these thoughts as the band played on, I had one of those ridiculous Christian-panic moments where I was thinking, “Now am I supposed to interpret all the lyrics through this lens?  Do I have to analyze everything to see how God is involved?”  No, I don’t.  In fact, when I have those thoughts, God is probably looking at me thinking, LIGHTEN UP.

So I am free to enjoy the music.

“I can hear rain coming like a serenade of sound…now my feet won’t touch the ground.”

Summer 09 050

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A Symphony Surprise

There are few things more excruciating than arriving at the symphony two minutes late.  The stern ticket master does not care that you couldn’t find your earring, that you got stopped by every red light in the city, or that parking was a disaster. He will not seat you until an appropriate break in the set; after all, your tardiness is not his fault.

This is the situation I was hoping to avoid as Mike and I prepared to spend the evening at the Seattle symphony enjoying the work of Mike’s favorite composer, George Gershwin. I bought the tickets as Mike’s birthday present, and the seats were on the orchestra floor.  THE ORCHESTRA FLOOR.  If you have met me even briefly, you know that this money did not leave my hands without serious cost-benefit analysis.  The point is, we were not going to be even one second late.

The concert was set to begin at 8PM and we left our house at 7:45PM.  Ouch.  We hit a traffic jam and Mike pulled a u-turn that sliced five years off my life, which started the negative visions in my head including: getting in an accident, overpaying for parking, not only being late but being barred from the event, and missing the majesty of THE OCHESTRA FLOOR.

This voice continued until I realized we were on one of the best car rides of our lives.  We were careening through the city like a police car chasing a wanted man – whipping around corners at highway speeds, blatantly ignoring red lights, warning pedestrians with our screaming horn – it was fantastic!  I’m not married to Mike; I’m married to James Bond!

Of course, I would not admit that he had driven brilliantly until we were actually in our seats on THE ORCHESTRA FLOOR.   The negative visions in my head insisted that all would fail at the last moment as we would surely hit a pregnant woman crossing the street with three puppies on a leash.

We did not.

Instead, we sailed through the doors of Benaroya Hall at 7:59PM as the tiny tinkle of warning notes rang out over the speakers, telling us to get in our seats.   We had made it.

Part of Mike’s birthday gift was his not knowing that we had seats on THE ORCHESTRA FLOOR until the moment we sat down in them.  Then he gushed sufficiently about the fabulousness of not sitting in the third tier with 3X magnitude binoculars like we usually do.  This was much better, he enthused.

As the first piece began, my heart rate went from 210 BPM to a reasonable 168.  And then 142.  And then 127.  I calmed all the way down until it occurred to me that I might find Gershwin boring.  It was the symphony after all, it’s not like I was at a Rolling Stones concert.  But how could any “favorite” activity of Mike’s be boring?  He’s the most upbeat, fast-paced person I know.  Surely this wasn’t an exercise in elevator music?

And then the conductor grabbed a mic.  If you’ve ever been to the symphony, you know this is unusual.   He spun around and greeted the audience in a thick New York accent, and then he did an unbelievable thing while standing in front of a serious orchestra.

He started telling jokes.

Laugh-out-loud, slap-your-knee humor.  Of course, no laughs were loud and no knees were slapped for the first two minutes because we were all waiting for our seat-neighbor to laugh first.  We weren’t going to be the ones to break protocol.

But then everyone was laughing.  The mood lifted, and people relaxed.  When I say people, I mean me.  I became even more delighted when I realized who the conductor was – Marvin Hamlisch!   He has won Oscars, Grammys, Emmys, all of it.  (Ladies, you will know him from his cameo in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” He plays “You’re So Vain” on the piano at the charity event while the two main characters belt it out.)  I am such a sucker for celebrity that Mike looked over at me like, “oh NOW you’re going to enjoy Gershwin, since Marvin is involved.  Typical!”

What’s incredible is that isn’t what happened at all.  Marvin’s musical genius far outweighed his comic genius and the performance was outstanding.  As he led the orchestra in “Rhapsody in Blue,” lights were displayed on the side of the stage to make it look like the band was performing in the middle of downtown New York.  More lights hit the ceiling like stars and suddenly it felt like we were all transported to an outdoor jazz club in Brooklyn.  The effect was spectacular.

The wine during intermission, however, was less than spectacular.  But no bother; the people-watching was stimulating enough.  One would think that a symphony in a major metropolis necessitates wearing something more sophisticated than, say, Crocs.  I found out that this is not true for some people.   Mike and I subtly gawked (is that possible?) at the array of Hawaiian shirts, khaki shorts, and the occasional printed t-shirt.

And women were no exception, though for the opposite reason.  It seems this event is overstated among some females in the form of ball gowns, floor-length glitter dresses, and ornate up-do’s.

But I digress.

The second half of the performance was dazzling in sound and talent.  Mike truly enjoyed himself, which was the entire point of the evening.  When it concluded we clapped until our hands hurt, and then ran across the street to The Triple Door for quieter jazz and a drink to match.

It’s such a surprise when an evening that begins like the opening scene of a Jackie Chan movie evolves into something beautiful.

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