By Andrew Lazo
I’ve been trying to figure out what to say for weeks now. Nights. Mornings. And I’ve finally come to this conclusion:
I can’t say anything.
I can’t say anything, that is, without saying everything. How do I isolate a dozen moments, four, one? How do I choose among the gracious children of Euterpe?
And how do I convey in any way that matters to you how much it means to arrive weary to work, dim the lights, and listen as loud and long as I can to “Gabriel’s Oboe,” reminding myself on the dirtiest of days that beauty lingers on the wind? I can no more do it that describe the sound of it live at the Sheldonian Theatre, there on Broad Street in Oxford, a few paces from where Cranmer stuck his hand first in the martyr’s fire.
The melody haunts me so terribly that I sometimes try to bottle that lilting wisp of wonder.
Nor can I express the taste of the salt-tears as I sat there in Poet’s Corner, listening to the Magdalen College Boy’s Choir invoke God the Holy Spirit into that awe-full and holy hall once more as they beautified the buttresses with the few and aching notes of “Veni Sanctu Spiritus” just moments before C. S. Lewis’s voice sounded upon the stones of Westminster, for the first and only time in the history of the whole world.
No more can I tell you how many nights in darkened, smoky rooms that I’ve stayed up, lingering long past my bedtime while nursing the end of an ale just to hear the band play one more encore, one last song before we all stumbled, sound-stunned into the dark night. Too many? Or, perhaps, not nearly enough?
Nor should I indulge in the ridiculously aggrandizing list of flitting flirtations around the edges of fame: I’ve held U2’s Grammy, played Bob Dylan’s guitar, met a Rolling Stone, seen my last name in some liner notes. You bet I show my students my tiny moment on MTV, hirsute and holy, and hoping even decades on that it might somehow make me cool. It doesn’t, but it offered indeed a night to remember all these years later. Check out the priest with the wine glass, two minutes in.
Those who’ve read what I’ve written here know that Sam Phillips, Pierce Pettis, and oh, my, over and again David Wilcox permanently spin on my inner turntable. To say nothing of the huge swaths of lines from A Hard Day’s Night I have down cold, knowing each black-and-white scene by heart. I once did a good enough scouse that a little old lady from England asked me where I was from.
And solos from the Seventies, and Paul Barnes playing the “Monsters of Grace,” and the hymns, and the beer-hall songs, boy bands and bass lines, Vaughan Williams, Van Morrison, Sting and Paul Simon, live and together (no less!).
John Denver, James Taylor, Shawn Colvin, and short, sharp Michelle Shocked. And Adam Again, and Phil Keaggy, the Lost Dogs barking Nicene Creeds.
And Johnny and June, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and how did I end up sitting with one third of Peter, Paul and Mary at breakfast one fall Texas morning? Leadbelly, Arlo and his dad Woody, and then Sufjan, Ron Sexmith, and Over the Rhine, “Born” from a Drunkard’s Prayer?
No. Don’t get me started, Euterpe, Euterpe. You could snatch away in a moment of pique every side from my inner jukebox and still I could hear them in the dark when I drive down some highway God only knows where.
My cup runneth over, my muse runs away with me, and here I sit in the silence with all of this symphony, euphony, sympathy swirling around in my head.
So stopping for now let me simply say this: they say angels in heaven sing the Gloria and I have high hope that one day I’ll finally get there. If ever I do I’ve a sneaking suspicion that something or everything suddenly will start sounding familiar enough to make all of it feel like home.
And surely that day I again shall fall silent and finally wise will just listen, with nothing to say, one hand clapped to my mouth and another one high in that air filled with praise.
Andrew Lazo is a teacher, writer, and sought-after speaker on C.S. Lewis and the Inklings. Read more from him at his website: http://andrewlazo.com
“Turntable” image courtesy James Barker at freedigitalphotos.net.