September 5 marks the three-year anniversary of the death of one of my most beloved teachers, David R. Davidson. David left this world far too soon due to cancer.

I spent three years studying conducting with him in graduate school. An incredible musician, he was an even finer human being who instilled a great number of musical and life lessons in me. His funeral was attended by well over a thousand people, and the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Symphony Chorus, and his combined church choirs all participated in a wonderful celebration of his life. I will long cherish the memories of that service which he himself had planned.

As a student, I recall one time when we were preparing Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. The constantly changing meter, immediate dynamic changes, and the difficult part-writing had made the work a lengthy project for me. At one point, David stopped me and engaged me in a conversation about what makes something beautiful. He asked me if I had ever seen The Shawshank Redemption. At the time, I hadn’t. He told me that my homework prior to the next lesson was to watch that movie. While viewing it, I came to one scene that I knew was the reason he suggested it. If you’ve seen the movie, you might recall it as well. The main character, Andy, places a recording of a duet from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, on to the prison’s loudspeakers. The prisoners in the yard all stop and look up in wonder. The narrator states, “We had no idea what those women were singing about, but we knew it had to be about something beautiful.” This brings to mind a saying by another great musician who recently left this world, Gerre Hancock. Gerre frequently would state “Anything beautiful is sacred.”

I’m incredibly thankful for everything in this world that brings beauty to my life – be it visual, aural, or emotional. And, I’m thankful that I have the chance to do something in my life which strives to offer beauty to others. In doing so, I feel like I continue to be in dialogue with David.

One of my favorite poems sums up most of my theology succinctly.

I love all beauteous things,

I seek and adore them;

God hath no better praise,

And man in his hasty days

Is honoured for them.

 

I too will something make,

And joy in the making!

Altho’ tomorrow it seem’

Like the empty words of a dream

Remembered on waking.

                             -Robert Bridges