Sunday, December 09, 2012

Not Playing Alone

I was visiting with a few people at a conference the other day and had mentioned that I play trumpet. One person in particular really took to that and kiddingly urged me to bring my trumpet and make music for everyone. I smiled because, well, I just don't do that. Trumpet, at least the way I play, is not a truly one instrument solo instrument. You can do that on piano, of course, as well as some other instruments. But I have heard very, very few unaccompanied trumpet solos.

It's not because it's impossible. I have a hunch that it would be boring in a very short time. While loud and, yes, brassy, trumpet is an ensemble instrument. With the possible exception of playing Reveille or Taps, you need at least a trumpet duet to make it interesting. A trumpet solo may soar above the band or cut through the underbrush foundation of an accompaniment to make a powerful statement, but it does so in teamwork with others.

That goes against the image of trumpet players, I realize. We are seen as the obnoxious, self-centered, noisy ones who always think they are the best. (No comment.) But most of us realize that we can't survive alone. We need each other. We need a musical community (band, orchestra, quintet, etc.) to make the music that truly soars.

The other piece of that is leadership. No, many trumpet players aren't necessarily out-in-front leaders. But leadership isn't always that visible. You may hear the trumpets but hopefully they are listening to the rest of the group, adjusting, giving intonation or color, even in simpler parts that don't look all that important on the surface. But take them away (any instrument's part) and you lose a piece of the whole.

I thought of all that again this morning playing with the instrumental ensemble at church for our Advent Service of Lessons and Carols. Together we set a mood and tone for the different pieces we played. We were accompaniment for singing. We were leadership for worship.

When the trumpets followed the cymbal role at the start of Joy to the World we were leading the way for the congregation to head into heights of celebration. When the organ joined in a few bars later, a foundation was placed beneath all of us to stand firm in our joy. The congregation then took off, singing the well-known words, riding the instrumental wave.

Those are the times I continue to be glad to be still playing trumpet in different ensembles: watching elderly people dance when the big band plays In the Mood at a senior living center, the community band introducing new music to an audience, or the quintet supporting people's prayers with Mozart's Ave Verum. Music is made in community and often through the grace of God makes brings people into community.

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