17 June 2012

podiums, puns & passion (for my dad)


my vision of you is upon the podium...
your arms pulsating in consistently precise rhythm (always using your righteous left hand to tell the percussionist to play softer J)...
your body swaying and bouncing with the ebb and flow of the music...
your face alighted with a Glory that comes from far beyond you AND deep within you.

Some conductors 'paint pictures' with their bodies, while others 'dance ballets' or 'give lectures' or even 'direct traffic' in their attempt to bring the forces of orchestra and choir together to make beautiful music. 

But you, Dad…you are a priest on the podium, like those of ancient Israel, uniting voices and instruments into a spiritual symphony of sacrifice, an offering of worship that is not only pleasing to the ears, but more importantly, becomes an instrument in the hands of the Master Musician to touch peoples’ lives in ways that reverberate into the depths of their hearts and souls and their very lives.

You conduct with such a passion and purpose and pleasure, it is as if you are conducting for your very life every time you lead a choir through an anthem or major work.  And this makes perfect sense, because worship of the living God IS a matter of life and death. 

But it is also a matter of resurrection.  When you are stoking the flames of the Spirit towards the climax of a musical worship offering, it is as if the Spirit of God aligns with your spirit and the two forces flow out of your pulsating arms, your swaying body, your alighted face, and directly into the bloodstream of the choir and orchestra.  And in that moment of convergence, sometimes lasting no longer than a heartbeat or two, heaven touches earth, life temporal meets life eternal, the kingdom of God is made manifest, and the presence of the risen Christ is experienced by all.  It doesn’t matter whether it happens through the simplicity of Gaither or Clydesdale or the complexity of Brahms or Bach.  Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the result is hearts set afire by the Living Flame of God’s Love.

As if this weren’t a miracle in and of itself…God has used you to bring this miracle about in a variety of church settings with an incredible variety of people (with varying degrees of singing and playing ability).  This bears witness to one of your greatest God-given gifts, Dad…you have the unique ability to affirm each member of your ensembles for who they are, regardless of their level of talent, and draw them into a vision that is more grand and glorious than any of them could achieve on their own.

In a choir directed by Warren Marsh, the end result is always innumerably greater that the sum of its parts. 

I have heard many, many choirs in my life…some that were technically flawless, others that displayed incredible musical dexterity and sensitivity.  But in all my years, I have never heard any choir sing with more passion, more heart, and more Spirit than any of yours, Dad.  By the Spirit’s working through your capable hands, even works that would fall flat otherwise have become the means through which God has made that life-giving presence in Christ known to more people than you could even possibly know.

You've done it all with great heart and humour...endless puns abounding...
  • Pointing to your podium the day of a concert and saying, 'Oh, it's just a one-night stand.'
  • Growing into your 'golden years' by commenting that 'now, I'm just a semi-conductor.'
  • Driving around in a family-sized vehicle with the custom license plate 'B8TOVAN'.
And I'm thankful that you included your family in the vast majority of those endeavors over the years, including a young, somewhat aloof but equally passionate percussionist, giving him not only the earliest gigs of his life, but more important, providing him with such vivid pictures of an artist fully engaged in his craft, and a man who truly gives himself completely to his calling, for reasons that even he himself at times doesn't fully understand, but deeply and intuitively KNOWS.

Thanks for modeling for me what it means to see and enact a vision, not just in vocation, but in life, that the biggest picture, the final work of art, is always greater than the sum of its parts.

And that each of those parts, in and of themselves, however frustrating or fabulous, terrifying or transcendent, mundane or magnificent, is unique and important and precious beyond compare.

Happy Father's Day, you old 'Not-Nearly-a-Semi-Conductor'...i love you, Dad. :)

The 'Maestro' with some of his favourite musicians :)


  1. Beautiful tribute to your dad! I have great memories of singing the Hallelujah Chorus with him at Lake Hills. Thanks for sharing!

  2. A gloriously beautiful and perfectly accurate portrait of your awesome Dad. Singing with the LHCC choir under his passionate direction was a taste of heaven brought to earth...thank you, Maestro Marsh! And thank you, Brian, for putting our memories into words.

    1. thanks, janet...so glad you've reconnected so many of us through the LHCC page...peace to you and yours :)