Like a lot of other people, I suspect, I recently received a web link of an online video recording of Buddy Greene playing his harmonica at Carnegie Hall.
I’m no expert at critiquing harmonica performance, nor for that matter, the cello, violin, bassoon or any of the various other instruments more commonly associated with Carnegie Hall performance. But I will venture my own impression that Buddy Greene plays a mighty fine harmonica. It’s a bit unexpected to hear works by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky performed on a harmonica. It’s flat out astounding to hear those works played with the acuity that Buddy demonstrates. The enthusiastic standing ovation of the Hall audience following his performance of the William Tell/1812 Overture corroborates that observation rather convincingly.
We have long known that the capacity of an instrument lies only partly with the instrument. We also know that even a cheap guitar sounds better in the hands of an accomplished player and that a truly wonderful instrument resonates with almost angelic qualities under the touch of a virtuoso.
I find it even more inspiring and wonderful to witness the touch of the Holy Spirit upon the human heart. Men bound by years of bitterness and hostility become gentle and loving. Women whose past includes decades of decadence become pure and righteous. Children scarred by a lifetime of abuse become trusting and forgiving. Lives are changed, relationships restored and despair becomes triumphant hope. Sinners such as me are relieved of the long years of lusting and longing and find satisfaction and soothing in the imitation of Christ.
Even the legendary violins of Stradivarius had no capacity for willful cooperation. All that could be extracted from them depended upon the hands of their builders and of their musicians. Only the human can make the choice of yielding to the better impulse, the greater hand, the divine touch. And in that yielding becomes the vessel of sublime transformation and receives the applause of God and angels.