Our local symphony launched its 2016-17 season recently, treating its audience to a rendition of Brahms’ sweeping Fourth Symphony, an orchestra piece the current conductor has waited to do since he began his term seven years earlier. The conductor will finish his contract with our local company this year and the audience will participate in helping select the successor at concerts to follow in coming months.
This conductor has done well here and my family has enjoyed the variety of musical flavors through which he has led the orchestra. On this first evening of his last season he added a passacaglia by Webern—a 17th century dance accompanied by a repeated bass line that the composer mastered and took to an orchestral level of dizzying intensity. A Schuman Concerto followed which featured a local cellist Joshua Roman. The program closed with the work by Brahms.
I’ve not before witnessed the selection process by which a new conductor is chosen. According to the president of the board of directors, beginning last March applications from more than two hundred and fifty candidates from forty-four countries and thirty-four states were reviewed. References had to be checked, videos viewed, and phone interviews conducted.
The twelve-person committee selected nine semi-finalists from that massive pool of applicants, invited them to visit and conduct a rehearsal reading with an orchestral chamber ensemble during the summer.
Now the audience will be asked to evaluate the three finalists as they conduct the orchestra during regular ticketed performances in the next several months. The entire process sounds exhausting to me. I can only imagine the trepidations of the candidates as they prepare to impress us, eager for the baton to be passed to them.
In similar fashion God wants us to live our faith with the same kind of endurance these orchestral candidates followed. We are to be aware of those around us, ready to be an example to those who haven’t yet found the saving grace we understand. We are to press on, ready to receive the prize.
I Corinthians 9:24: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize.”
Then when we appear before him at the door of eternity, we can look forward to his words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” We will have achieved God’s baton.