4'33''

IMG_4510We were finally there. The 10th Anniversary Gala of The Walt Disney Concert Hall had been circled on our calendar for months. Loretta and I did nothing short of soak up every moment. We walked the red carpet, stood in the lobby, ate hors d'oeuvres, and to strangers who were equally as excited as we were, I gave a few cordial "How do you do's?" Within minutes, we'd witness the L.A Philharmonic Orchestra with honored, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and of course, conducted by the great Gustavo Dudamel. Before we knew it, bells tolled and lights dimmed. We took our seats. (I'm typing with a whisper.) After the first chair took his honored place, Yo-Yo Ma and Dudamel emerged side by side to thunderous applause. The program was set to be a musical allegory of the difficult tale of the hall's construction. Concerning the first piece, Dudamel urged us to take in "every corner and every sound of this beautiful space." No doubt we would. I held Loretta's hand. I could feel her anticipation through it. Like a distinguished gentleman, Dudamel turned and faced the music. One subtle gesture and every instrument was raised to the ready. With the stillness of a statue, Yo-Yo Ma held the bow against the strings, with his eyes fixed intently on his conductor -- as did every other member of the orchestra -- waiting for the cue. A cue that never came.

IMG_4473After about 30 seconds, I began to feel uncomfortable. What was Dudamel waiting for? There must be a technical difficultly. I remembered reading that the elaborate sailboat-style big screens were hoisted specifically for the evening, so maybe the video wasn't working? I just knew something was wrong. Trying not to be obvious, my eyes scanned the shadowed crowd. Surely I wasn't alone. After three minutes of complete silence with the musicians at-the-ready, I confirmed that Dudamel was the most professional, the most calm, the most composed man I had ever witnessed during a crisis.

But after four minutes and thirty-three seconds, the crisis ended when Dudamel turned around. Without hesitation, the hall erupted; a standing ovation filled with bravos and cheers. He took the hand of Yo-Yo Ma and they stood and applauded one another, the orchestra, the crowd and the hall itself. My head was spinning. What did I just witness? The next day, the L.A. Times described the moment like this: "Dudamel began where no American orchestra has, before it, dared to go — with John Cage's "4'33"," the so-called silent piece." I came to realize that the point of the piece was to take in the surroundings, the sound of silence, and to honor the hall's creator.

When we finally took our seats, Dudamel said that because we have honored the designer and taken in his blessed work, we will now experience what it can do.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Before I left the hall that night, I was thinking of all of you. I couldn't wait to compare that silent piece with our daily, silent peace. Each day, we're so eager to start the music, aren't we? Like we read in yesterday's entry -- to do our own song and dance. We check the phone, our e-mail, the news, traffic and sports. We hit the floor, the road, the gym. We know what instrument we play and we don't wait to play it. But doesn't our Lord -- the Designer and Creator -- deserve our undivided attention? Like Yo-Yo Ma sat watching the master, wouldn't we be wise to do the same before we play? Trust me when I tell you, that when the music finally began in the hall, it was octaves above amazing. Friends, our lives are clearer, stronger, more powerful when we spend those few precious, silent moments with Him; waiting, listening, and watching for His cue. Only then do we really, truly play.

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