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The Sounds of Music

Updated: 7 days ago

Recently, I participated in a significant orchestral/choral production in my city.  For weeks afterward, people I knew came to me to tell me how wonderful the program was and to ask me if I was in it.  I told them I played the trombone in the orchestra.

That was when their faces turned pale, and they struggled with what to say next.

“Do you know what a trombone sounds like?” I asked.


In each case, an expression of torment came upon them, and they said softly, “Well, not really.”

I can experience people’s discomfort for only so long before I must do something about it.

Even though I’m not good at volleyball, basketball, or football, I'm familiar with most of the rules of those games and know what’s happening when I watch them being played.  I know what setters, forwards, and centers do.


However, the average person today doesn’t understand music beyond knowing that most pop bands have a lead vocalist, a lead guitarist, a bass guitarist, and a drummer. Sometimes, one of those three performers is the lead vocalist, and sometimes there is a keyboardist.

I know these things because I observe the world around me—even activities that don’t capture my greatest attention.  Most people don’t share my appreciation for the activities of millions of my fellow country citizens.


This great unmet need has caused me to embark on a holy quest to help those around me have more fulfilled lives.  I asked one of my daughters to recommend a symphonic number to aid me in my pursuit.  She recommended Benjamin Britten’s Opus 34, composed in 1945, entitled “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.” 


“I’m not a young person,” you say.


When it comes to music, yes, you are.


The piece, commissioned for a documentary film to instruct people about the instruments used in orchestras, was initially performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.


The performance you’ll see was performed by the WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln) Symphony Orchestra, directed by Jukka-Pekka Saraste.

To help you along, I’ve added some explanatory notations. If some of them seem a bit snarky to you, it’s because you’re still a sweet summer child and need encouragement. Isn’t that what life is about—helping each other succeed happily?

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