I used to play trumpet in a marching band, and one of my favourite songs to play was Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.” The first time I heard it, it gripped me. Not because of the trumpet’s part, but because of the piccolo’s part. You see, this march marches along as marches do, with each instrument playing the different melodies to be found within the piece of music. But then suddenly, all the instruments play softly – so that the piccolo has a chance to be heard clearly. And the piccolo plays something that hasn’t been heard before in the piece. Something that reinterprets everything that has gone before in a slightly different way. The piccolo is a lone voice that is given the opportunity to be heard, and once heard, when the other instruments play loudly, you find that you can still hear it. Not only that, but if you heard the piece of music again, you expect to hear the piccolo!
In concerts, the audience often cheers when the whole band including the piccolo play loudly and confidently together at the end. I used to think that it was because we trumpets stood up! But now I know – it’s the piccolo playing its part, dancing around the melodies of all the other voices in a way that somehow brings everything together.
People want to hear the piccolo whether they realise it or not. If they have never encountered the march before – when they do – they find that what they thought was already perfect suddenly becomes perfected in the hearing of the piccolo.
But it takes confidence to be the piccolo. You have to be willing to stand up and play your part. With a sense of knowing the part you are playing. You have to know what you are playing and who you are playing it for.
And the rest of the band needs to quieten down at times to allow the piccolo to be heard. And then once heard, all play confidently together for the good of all who are listening and for the joy of the composer who created the piece of music in the first place.
Questions to ponder
Could this be community? Are you a piccolo needing to be heard? Or are you a trumpet that needs to quieten down for a moment so that a piccolo can be heard? Do you know what you are playing? Do you know who you are playing it for?
Is this church? Could God be the composer? The church be the band? The world ready to enjoy the music?
Is this the way of life? Could God be the composer and the world be the band, with all of creation rejoicing in the music playing? Is God by His spirit the conductor? Is Jesus the piccolo? Does the life, death and resurrection of Jesus dance around the melodies of life, bringing something new, reinterpreting everything in a different way?
Do you know what you are playing?
Do you know who you are playing it for?
You can hear Sousa’s march by clicking one of the links below:
To hear the United States Marine Band play it, click hear https://youtu.be/a-7XWhyvIpE
or if you prefer, the Band of the Grenadier Guards, click https://youtu.be/jyrmVBfe2Bg