Sunday, September 23, 2007

Western civilization on display

I attended “A Night of Excellence” Saturday. It was a church event. A dozen congregations (about 3,000 members total) were invited to participate.

There was a Vivaldi duet, followed by a Seitz violin solo. We had a couple of dramatic readings of works by Tennyson and Ave Verum sung by a women’s quartet. Then a men’s chorus sang Stephen Foster’s Beautiful Dreamer.

We heard a soprano solo of Con te partiro and the conclusion was a Rachmaninoff Piano Sonata (memorized, by the way).

We saw the works of members in ceramics, quilts, oils, and photography. None of the performers of exhibiters would be considered “professional”.

Perhaps 200 people attended the event.

It was really something from the past. No one worried about the racial balance of the program or the thought that someone will be critical that rap or salsa was not represented.

I thought about how meaningless refinement is today. We pay more attention (and money) to that which shocks than we do to that which excels. We have purchased the notion that cultural displays make people feel uncomfortable for all sorts of reasons.

"It smacks of elitism", they say. “Poor children can’t afford violins or voice lessons.” Or, “Native African music is equally complex and should be included in the program.”

Some would say, “Don’t you realize that Mozart was a pervert?”

And like fools we have acquiesced into the abysmal pit of cultural nothingness. We rush about calling every sound “music” and everything that moves “dance.” Excellence has lost its meaning.

I would be lying to say that I enjoyed every performance, but it didn’t keep me from appreciating the talent and discipline the works represented.

It may well be that our overarching efforts at inclusion will spell the end of our civilization; that we no longer have the desire to defend that which is decent and wholesome in our society; that we are afraid to stand up against things that debase and defile.

But for a couple of hours on a Saturday night, this group was indeed appreciating and honoring excellence and refinement. It was refreshing even though it seemed odd in our world.

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