One of my favorite things about exploring the concept of sacramental living is that all of a sudden, God is everywhere. Not just in the usual way of being everywhere at all times – I can see him all over the place now. Strange places, like in novels and on back roads and in cups of hot tea. (Not literally IN my cup of tea – although if I’m going to take the omnipresence thing seriously, I guess he kind of is, so I’ll just let you work out your own theology on that one.)
Tonight I heard echoes of God in my rehearsal for a classical concert on Sunday. I’ve worked with the mezzo-soprano many times before, so she’s used to my ability to follow a soloist, bending my musical interpretation in that dance of give-and-take that all good music should be. The viola player has heard me play, but we’ve never performed together. He is phenomenal, to the point that he scares me a little, and I was nervous about working with him.
Then he drops this compliment on me. (I’ll give it to you verbatim, and then I’ll translate.) He says to my singer friend, while eyeing me, “She’s really good at that, the [he sways in place for a second, waving his hands back and forth with his viola tucked under his arm] – you know, instead of counting.” If you don’t speak Musician, that probably didn’t impress you as much as it did me, so here it is in normal-person English: “She knows when to follow and when to take the lead, and she values the line of the music more than staying precisely on tempo.”
Coming from the principal violist of the local symphony, who is not generally known for scattering compliments around, that completely made my day. I appreciated it partly because I was so relieved that it had gone well, but also because that is one of my core values as a musician. All of my professional piano playing is with other musicians, and I want that flexibility to be a hallmark of my playing. It’s important to me that people be able to play the way they want to play, without having to fight me for it.
I’d never heard it phrased that way, though: “Instead of counting.” When I thought about it, I realized he was right. Once I’ve learned a piece well enough that I can keep half my attention on the other performer instead of my own hands, I’m not really thinking about “ONE-two-three-four” any more – I’m hearing lines and shapes and tone colors, making the music dance and bend, never quite the same as the last time. When we reach the end of a piece and we have to play the last few notes together, I really don’t care how many beats Brahms said to play them – I care about these three notes with this violist at this performance, and if that turns out to be 3.4 beats instead of 3, that is fine. If we decide that it just needs to hang there until he runs out of bow, even better! (That’s what we settled on, incidentally.)
As I drove home from rehearsal, the words “instead of counting” kept rolling around in my head, and eventually I remembered where I’d heard them.
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Love doesn’t count. Love bends and flexes and dances, so that this love for this child, this friend, this hurting colleague or joyful neighbor or hungry stranger, is exactly as it’s meant to be at this moment.
Count less. Listen more. Find God where you least expect him.