Tuesday, February 08, 2005

when the saints go marching in

Today is Shrove Tuesday, and my mind has drifted to Mardi Gras and to New Orleans, which is one of the truly unique cities in the U.S. A few years ago I took part in a conference with about ten pastors. We spent several days reading and discussing Christian texts, none having anything to do with New Orleans, but none of us were upset. At night we enjoyed meals at phenomenal restaurants. The one I remember most vividly was Galatoire's.

On one of the evenings we made our way to Preservation Hall, 726 Saint Peter Street, in the French Quarter. It is shrine for traditional jazz music, the building itself dating back to 1750. There are usually five or six musicians there (trombone, trumpet, piano, bass, drums, banjo, clarinet), with the trumpet leading. You make your way into the building via the carriage way, then into the courtyard, and finally you are in the concert hall, which actually holds only a few people. A visible sign gives the house rules: Requests, $2; Others, $5, The Saints, $10. The latter refers, of course, to the spiritual, "When The Saints Go Marching In".

Preservation Hall attracts pilgrims who want to experience this music. The musicians do one thing---night after night they show up to play their instruments---and they do it very well. They do it with grace and faithfulness, simplicity and joy. You can visit Preservation Hall on a virtual tour (www.preservationhall.com), or you can drop in the next time you are in the French Quarter, after you have been to Galatoire's.

A few lessons---these should make sense to a Christian: keep it simple, follow the lead of the saints, trust the music that has been handed down, make the effort to find the place, and patiently wait for the moment when you are in the presence of something that inspires, something that is beautiful, something that is holy.


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