We are fortunate to live in a city that has an incredible symphony orchestra and, as a result, we have ready access to classical concerts, pop concerts, chamber music concerts, etc. Last year we had tickets to the classical concert series. I love to listen to the orchestra in a live performance – it is a real treat. But I don’t know what to expect just from reading the advertisement for the concert.
We arrived at the theatre and found that the program was three selections, all written in the 1800s by persons of whom I had no knowledge, given my relatively insufficient knowledge of composers and their works. The concert was in late October so the selections had a Halloween theme.
The first selection was A Night on Bald Mountain written by Modest Mussorgsky, a Russian born composer who was born in 1839. The work is based on a Russian legend describing the witches who go to Bald Mountain the night before the feast of St. John the Baptist. While there, Satan comes and it becomes a night of passion and frenzy.
(The picture is not from the concert but, rather, is a Halloween costume one of my grandchildren wore a number of years ago.)
The program notes included an explanation, written by the composer himself, detailing what to expect in the performance.
So far as my memory doesn’t deceive me, the witches used to gather on this mountain, gossip, play tricks and await their chief – Satan. On his arrival, they, i.e., the witches, formed a circle around the throne on which he sat, in the form of a kid, and sang his praise. When Satan was worked up into sufficient passion by the witches’ praises, he gave the command for the Sabbath, in which he chose for himself the witches who caught his fancy. – So this is what I’ve done. At the head of my score I’ve put its contents.
- Assembly of the witches, their talk and gossip.
- Satan’s journey
- Obscene praise of Satan and
If the work is performed, I wish this program to appear on the bills for the enlightenment of the audience.
[From the Program Notes by Ken Meltzer, The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra program for the concert on October 17, 2014 entitled Symphonie Fantastique, Sameer Patel, Conductor.]
The orchestral work ranged from fluid and enticing to frenetic and frenzied. The entire orchestra was involved; violins, woodwinds, two harps, brass, and of course there was, my personal favorite, percussion! What struck me, however, was that just before the end of the piece, chimes were struck, clear and sharp. The chimes pierced the frenzy of the scene and peace came in their wake.
The program noted that “At the height of the Sabbath, a distant church bell sounds. The spirits disappear, and A Night on Bald Mountain concludes with the arrival of dawn, and the return of peace.”
I have attached this link to a YouTube post by The Wicked North which is a performance of part of A Night on Bald Mountain, this clip coming at the height of the Sabbath toward the end of the piece. The YouTube clip is a little over 9 minutes long, but at 7:20 on the clip you will hear the change in the music following the ringing of the chimes.
As I applauded the skill and talent of our orchestra in its rendition of A Night on Bald Mountain, I thought of the symbolism in the music. It was a beautiful reminder that our Lord is supreme.
We need to be reminded of this as, in our own country, innocent people have been killed, just in the past month, as they prayed in a Charleston, South Carolina church, they did their assigned duties at the Marine and Navy centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and they watched a comedic movie at a theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Clearly, Satan has his way in the world [Ephesians 2:2], but we know that the ultimate victory belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:55-56:
“Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [ESV]
Oh that we would live our lives hearing the bell’s chime through the din of the world’s clamor.
Oh, that we would live our lives in a manner that we would be like a bell chiming out the love that the Lord gives us for this fallen world.
Oh, that when people meet us, they would see Jesus.