I am starting the year off by expressing deep thanks for Pachelbel’s Cannon. Chances are good you’ve heard it. It’s soft and has that generic, classical music quality that makes it popular at weddings. In fact, it may have been written specifically for that purpose. There are many arrangements. The string version, with violins playing the melody, is the most common. You can hear it performed here if you so desire. The arrangement I’m thankful for, however, is the one written for three trumpets and performed by Winton Marsalis. You can hear it here.
Trumpets are my favorite musical instruments. They have power that can pick a listener up out of their chair and hurl them to the back of the room. But, at the control of a skilled performer, they can also be soft and expressive like no other instrument. Their grace is unsurpassed.
The strings version lacks power. I’m not saying it isn’t beautiful. It is, and while it inspires peace it also possesses a benign purpose. It doesn't inspire awe or action. In the Marsalis version, the trumpets leave no doubt they are powerul and creative as they fly above the other instruments. And flying is how I envision them. As the music progresses they take wing, weaving their graceful, clear and powerful paths among and above the strings. But, the real beauty of the piece is the finale. A single note, a high A, soars above the strings like a bird high above a field.
Years ago, when I heard the Marsalis version for the first time, I was a convicted atheist. But after listening to that ending a revelation came to me, causing me to question all that I believed. The whole work, in three trumpets that are actually only one (Marsalis plays all three) is the act of creation and that final note was the face of God gliding over the face of the waters, gazing on his good work. I knew after one hearing that Pachelbel’s Canon is a musical allegory of creation. Here is God, I thought. Pure, perfect and graceful. The impact on my belief was profound for I could no longer claim to be an atheist. That was my first step towards belief and I became a God-fearing atheist (I am a firm believer in baby steps :-) ).
The grace of the music started me on my walk and I was eventually baptized in Jesus name for the remission of sins. I received the gift of the Holy Ghost. As my walk lengthened, I began to contemplate God’s grace and over time He revealed to me the nature and the magnitude of it. The nights at my cabin in the woods in New Hampshire, gazing upward, paralyzed at the beauty and the incomprehensible scale of the star filled sky; the views of the savannah in Africa that showed me what life thousands of years before must have been like; the simple clarity and beauty of mathematics; the awesome profundity of physics; the majesty of music, art, literature and His Word. These, I have come to know, are all elements of His grace.
The most wonderful thing about His grace is that despite my reluctance to believe, my countless sins and heresies, my self-reliance, pride and pleasure-seeking tendencies that God still loves me enough to come to earth in the flesh, bear disfiguring torture and die so I could be saved. So, I am thankful for Pachelbel’s Cannon because it was through it that God first revealed His grace to me. And, now, I’m a fully actualized God-fearing Christian.
Thank you, Lord.