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And the Trumpet Shall Sound in the Church Orchestra

Posted by glennled on December 25, 2010

This past Sunday was different from any other in my long life. I’ve played in marching bands, drum and bugle corps, concert bands, orchestras, ensembles, operas, and musicals. As a teen, I led congregational singing, but until 19 December 2010, I had never played trumpet in a church orchestra.

Archangel Gabriel Wall Relief, Church of San Michele, Florence, Italy, 1359 A.D.

My wife and I have heard and joined in congregational singing with this orchestra at a local community church several times this year. It is the best of its kind that I’ve ever heard in the Greater Seattle Area. The compositions and arrangements are sophisticated and even challenging at times.

One Sunday in the church bulletin, there was an offer to consider new members in the orchestra. I auditioned and was accepted as a substitute trumpeter. There are three regular trumpeters and several subs like me. The lead trumpeter has been there well over 20 years and plays at least a dozen instruments. Another regular also has been there more than 20, and the other more than 15.   

The day I played, there were about 18 musicians in the orchestra; sometimes there are as many as 25-30. The choir numbered about 50. On this occasion, we were not playing “And the Trumpet Shall Sound” from Handel’s Messiah. Instead, this was the music:

  • “Festival of Carols” (a medley of four)
  • “Angels We Have Heard on High”
  • “The First Noel,”
  • “Come, Emmanuel,”
  • “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

Bass Performance Hall, Ft. Worth, TX, by Tony Gutierriz/AP, 14 June 2002

I had not known that “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” was written as a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow after he had lost two wives and one of his sons had been severely wounded in the Civil War. He wrote the words on 25 December 1864. About four months later, the Civil War ended and peaced reigned over the land once more. Later, the poem was modified and became a carol. Its last two stanzas read as follows:

“And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!'”

Can you worship with a horn? Until last Sunday I was not sure—maybe concentrating on playing the music correctly would displace worship. No, to my pleasant surprise, it did not. It was a moving experience. You can worship with your horn just as surely as you do with your voice in song. And it’s especially poignant when you’re accompanying an excellent church choir like this one.  Volunteer and try it someday—you’ll like it.

2 Responses to “And the Trumpet Shall Sound in the Church Orchestra”

  1. Nancy said

    I was lucky enough to have been in the congregation that Sunday. I found the music deeply worshipful and inspiring. The age-old carols were arranged, played and sung with talent and vitality, at once both familiar and new. Loved the service and having my husband in the orchestra. Hope you can do it again, Glenn!

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