Rest | Paper Doll TalesI’m in on a secret with all other musicians who have ever aspired to play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  You know, the one we all know from the “Dum-Dum-Dum-Duuuuuummmm” notes that accompany every Looney Toons escapade ever created.

Once upon a time, with the Pennsylvania High School Honors Orchestra, I entered the inner circle of the Beethoven’s Fifth club as I brought my violin to chin and placed bow on string in expectation of the down beat.  I held my breath, waited for the downward slash of that white baton, and when it came I, and every bow hesitating in the air in front of me, sawed downward for the first “Dum.”

The baton rapped on the conductor’s podium.

A rapping baton is never a happy thing in orchestra land.

It might be the symphonic equivalent of the downstroke of the principal’s paddle, back when such things were still allowed.

“The rest!!!” sang out the exasperated conductor.  The first violin section gave a collective squint, our instruments dutifully waiting in rest position on our knees, not sure how we could have gone so very wrong on the very first note.

“The rest!!!” he refrained, this time jabbing the sheet music with his baton.  Jabbing now, worse, even worse, than a rapping baton.

I’ll give away the secret now.  Beethoven’s Fifth does not start “Dum-Dum-Dum-Duuuuuummmm.”  It actually starts, “{silent beat}-Dum-Dum-Dum-Duuuuuummmm.”

Beethoven’s Fifth is my favorite classical piece to hear or play.  All because of that one silent beat of rest.  Because when I hear the opening, my heart pauses, my imaginary bow freezes, my fingers tense in anticipation, and I literally hold my breath.  “{Rest}-Dum-Dum-Dum-Duuuuuummmm.  {Rest}-Dum-Dum-Dum-Duuuuuummmm.”

I need Beethoven’s Fifth in my life like I need Sunday in my week.  A silent beat in which to tune in, to hold a collective breath, and to anticipate all the great that is about to break forth with a fury on the next down beat.

And I’m thankful for the Conductors of life, my family and friends and children and husband and Lord who all at various times wield a rappy, pokey white baton in my direction.  Conductors who can prod me to rest, wait, and not rush forward precipitously.  Because the secret to great things truly lies in the rest that comes first.

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  1. Larry said:

    As I recall, it was: One – Two and a – 3-1-2-3 Repeat

    October 11, 2015
  2. James Hendrickson said:

    5 mins at the end of a long day? This is amazing!

    October 11, 2015
  3. Jo said:

    Sabbath. God knew. We should listen.

    October 11, 2015

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