Beethoven Sonata Provides Solace in Midst of Sorrow

Post a Comment » Written on November 19th, 2008     
Filed under: News
MONTECITO, CA (November 19, 2008) – Chris Call, the chair of Montecito Covenant Church, was the vice president of Westmont College who helped formulate the emergency response plan that helped keep 600 students safe as a devastating wildfire claimed 15 nearby homes of faculty members and damaged other campus buildings.

When the fire broke out last Thursday, students were evacuated to the school’s cinder-block gymnasium, where they spent the night. “The students did amazingly well,” Call says. “Obviously that was a long night.”

Although students generally were calm, tensions rose as smoke seeped into the gym and the temperature began to rise. Although firefighters assured them they were safe, students formed prayer circles and began to make calls home.

Through the night, everyone was grateful that no lives had been lost, Call says. “But as the sun rose on Friday, we began to get a sense of the devastation to some of the faculty members’ homes.”

“Fifteen faculty families have lost homes and possessions,” Call says. Two faculty members also may have lost research and class-related materials when their offices were destroyed.

“We were deeply saddened to see all that these dear friends had lost,” Call says.

He returned home exhausted. “There was deep gratitude and deep sorrow,” he recalls.

That day, after just a couple hours of sleep, Call found solace with Beethoven. Although he is a pianist who has played in church, he normally doesn’t just sit down at the instrument and pull out music to play, he says.

On Friday, however, for reasons he didn’t know at the time, he pulled out the composer’s Sonata Pathetique and began to play. Pathetique is French for “deep pathos” or “deep passion and sorrow,” Call says. “That comes through in the music.” Click here to hear a rendition of this piece by a different performer.

“I just started to cry,” he recalls. “I was just absolutely overwhelmed. I realized it was communicating with me in ways that nothing else could.”

Call says he doesn’t know the history of the piece, but, “As far as I was concerned he wrote it just for me at this particular time.”

Call shared the story of his experience with Bob Gross, the church’s new director of worship arts, who asked him to play it during communion when the church met on Sunday.

The church building escaped fire damage, but the congregation was forced to meet at a local country club because smoke had spread throughout the church when the fire was nearby. Call was never able to play during communion, however. The country club forced the service to be shortened because attendees had filled all of the parking spaces and the club needed the space for another event.

Still, Call was able to share the story and played the piece as a postlude. As the people left, they also were able to experience through the music the “deep passion” as well as their gratitude for God’s protection of life.

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