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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

August 19, 2016

The most difficult instrument

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

You wouldn't know it by watching me, but my family was musical – at least some of my six brothers. My mother took care of that with her preference for classical music and her sense of rhythm and timing.

My oldest brother played the accordion. At the age of 13 he won a competition for his accordion rendition of "Flight of the Bumblebee", an orchestral interlude written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for his opera "The Tale of Tsar Saltan". My brother paid for his college education in the evening by entertaining guests in the restaurants near his student residence.

My second youngest brother played the flute, piccolo and the piano. He studied at the famous "Julliard School of Music" in New York City. And my youngest brother was a drummer who specialized on the classical kettle drums. He was among the finalists vying for an open position at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. After his second on-stage trial, the conductor told him: "You are an excellent musician, but too young for this orchestra" (my brother was 25 years old at the time).

I was supposed to be drummer, but liked playing baseball and I didn't have time for music as a child.

I often heard my brother practicing their instruments, at times for hours. I sometimes wondered: "What is the most difficult musical instrument to play?" I guess it takes work to master every instrument, but perhaps those instruments are initially easier where the tones are predetermined by the instrument, like the piano or the flute. You either hit the right key or you don't. You either open and close the right key on the flute or you don't. Learning how to play the stringed instruments would be more challenging, because there isn't any predetermined exact right position for each note. You learn where to put your fingers and hold the strings by playing. Maybe that is why sitar players are respected around the world, because the sitar is considered one of the most difficult instruments to play.

As Christians we all learn how to play the same instrument. And it is without a doubt the most difficult instrument for us to play. The apostle Paul gives some hints about this instrument in his epistles, like in 1 Corinthians 11, verse 3: "I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." And in Romans 13, verse 1: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God." And lastly in Philippians 2, verses 3-4: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."

We all have to master this instrument if we want to enter the kingdom of God. Which instrument is it?

Second fiddle.

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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