Musical memory day 2. My great friend, Tobbe Janson, nominated me to offer seven days of musical memories. On day one, I talked about my love of two songs as a little kid: the theme from the Banana Splits and Snoopy and the Red Baron.
As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a house where music always played and albums littered (in a very Germanic, organized fashion!) the walls, the shelves, and the vinyl boxes. All music was accepted in our house: classical; opera; jazz; rock; prog; pop; and even musicals. The latter two, admittedly, did the least for me, while I cherished the others.
This memory, however, comes not from the Great Plains of Kansas as a child but from Innsbruck, Austria, as a sophomore in college. That year (July 1987-July 1988), I spent at the University of Innsbruck with several close friends, including current Facebook friends, Jim Otteson and Liz Bardwell. Kevin McCormick was spending the same year in Rome.
This memory is intimately tied up with the place, but it is also tied up with my soul. Sometime around the age of 13, I had decided I was an atheist or agnostic, and I became rather militant about it. Without getting into the nitty gritty of it all, let me just state here and now that I was rather proud of my atheism, despite the the rather brilliant witness example of my extended family members and the continuing but very patient arguments about this with Kevin McCormick. I found God on a train in the deserts of Morocco in late February, 1988. Or, He found me.
When I made my way back to Innsbruck, I decided to attend high Mass at St. Jakob’s. I was a minute or two late on a Sunday morning, and it was during an opening moment of silence. At the end of that pregnant pause, the immense choir erupted into Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor. I’m not sure I’d ever heard anything that beautiful or beatific in my life. Though I’d always loved Mozart, his music had been just that: music. Never had I heard it integrated into worship. My soul soared at those opening coral notes, and I don’t think I’ve been the same. When people tell me that Mass is a glimpse of heaven and I hear bad folk guitar playing the tripe of Marty Haugen or Dan Schutte, I cringe. Surely, God has more class than this.
When I heard Mozart. . . then, I heard heaven.