All Together Now

She carried the old guitar in, asking if I wanted to buy it.

It’s not an unusual question.  It seems I answer that one every day.

They don’t carry in instruments like this one every day, though.  The beautiful, vintage guitar grabbed my attention from the moment it came out of the case.

I was pretty sure I did want to buy the pretty thing, but first, I had to hold it in my hands, making sure the initial visual impression would be borne out by the actual playing experience.

Dad had the right idea when he taught me, many years ago, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.  Good looks are nice, but the item has to live up to its promises.

Tuning the old strings, I ran the pickup selector switch through all the positions.

In the number 1 position, the neck pickup was full and bass-y.  That was exactly what I was expecting.

Then I switched to number 2, and the center pickup dropped out a lot of the bass, but was really strong in the mid-range sounds.  Again, no surprises.

Number 3, producing a signal from the pickup nearest the bridge, was very different, with all treble tonalities and almost no sustain.  You might even have called it twangy.  Exactly the sound a bridge pickup should emit.

Everything worked!  But I wasn’t ready to make an offer yet.

I flipped the selector switch to the last position, this one marked ALL.

The change was profound!

2013-06-19 12.21.29-2All the tonal qualities from each pickup were combined into one signal.  The edgy tone of the bridge pickup, the mid-range punch of the center pickup, and the full-throated growl of the neck pickup, all joined their voices to fill the air with captivating sound.

I glanced over at the old woman, seated nearby on a stool, and she was grinning from ear to ear.

“I think the price just went up,” she teased.

Without reservation, the answer to the original question was yes!

Yes, I certainly wanted to buy the guitar, so we struck the deal.

It was hanging on the wall of the music store as I wrote this, awaiting the little bit of tender, loving care that would bring it back to top condition once again.

My mind goes back again to that moment.  Oh, it was heaven to hear!

I looked at the name stamped on the headstock of the guitar and thought, how appropriate.

The company that built the fine old instrument was the Harmony Guitar Company.

The  lesson I am learning–have been learning for many years–is contained in that brand name.  Wrapped up in one word.

I love harmony.

Orchestras, choirs, barbershop quartets, rock groups, or church congregations—it doesn’t matter. All are transformed from a ragtag bunch of individual musicians into one cohesive musical instrument, simply by blending their voices and talents together.

And, whether we are listening, or performing, it is an exquisite joy to experience that blending—that cooperation—with others.

I do love to listen to soloists.  But, for the most part, they don’t—ever—sing without harmony.  Only if they sing a capella, without accompaniment, do they truly sing a solo.

I don’t think I would ever want to attend an entire concert of a capella solo music.  I say that with some assurance.  A fair amount.

Our ears naturally want to hear harmonies, if only in the quiet chords of a guitar, or the moving undertones of a string bass.

It is indeed our experience in all of life, and not just in the sphere of music.

We each have a distinctive voice.

Some of us are all grumbly, bassy resonance.

Others are the almost nondescript mid-range, providing the in-between parts in the grand scale of life.

The high voices cut through the mix, edgy and clear.

We need to hear every one of these voices.  There is value in each one, and they will each have a time to shine alone.

But, when they join together in harmony, finding the right notes to complement the tonality of all the other voices?

Ah, heaven won’t be much better than that, will it?

Harmony between individuals is, indeed, a great and beautiful gift from our Creator. But, we don’t always want to find the right notes.

Too often, we desire to sing the lead part when we are better suited to a supporting part.  We argue and demand our due, creating discord and clashing with our fellow musicians.

I have been the cause of such disunity.  I’ve heard the dissonant tones, and watched people cover their ears and walk away in disgust.

Harmony demands the cooperation of everyone in the group.  It requires the constant attention to pitch and balance by each participant.

Somehow as a human race (and recent events only serve to put an exclamation point on it) we’re not all that good at holding harmony.

There have been, indeed, periods of spectacular effort and results.

And yet, individual voices always demand, eventually, to be heard above the chorus.  The result is always disastrous.

It always will be, when voices won’t follow the direction of the Master Conductor.  Harmony is elusive, even non-existent, without Him.

Harmony is elusive, even non-existent, without the Master Conductor. Click To Tweet

How will it ever be any different, if we who claim to follow His lead fight and bicker to prove whose voice should be heard?

How will those who deny His very existence ever see any evidence of who He is?  How could they recognize how essential His direction is in the life of those who would join the chorus?

I’m trying to listen for the other voices these days.

I don’t always have to hear my own voice louder than the others in the choir.  It has taken me many years to begin to grasp this lesson.

I haven’t mastered it yet.

Still, I’m loving the beautiful harmonies I’m starting to hear.  It’s sounding better to my ear all the time.

I’m wondering if life is just practice for the day when we’re all a part of heaven’s choir.

I’ve missed too many rehearsals already.

How about you?


How wonderful and pleasant it is
    when brothers live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
    that was poured over Aaron’s head,
    that ran down his beard
    and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
    that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing,
    even life everlasting.
(Psalm 131 ~ NLT)


In the end we shall have had enough of cynicism, skepticism, and humbug, and we shall want to live more musically.
(Vincent van Gogh~Dutch artist~1853-1890)



And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
(Colossians 3:14~ESV)





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.

2 thoughts on “All Together Now

  1. Loved your post and couldn’t help but think of a poem God gave me so long ago called Two Notes. All about the very thing you were talking about. It made me smile from ear to ear.

  2. When I helped my husband lead contemporary worship at our church, my main vocal contribution was harmony. Oh, how I loved singing that added part, blending in (I hoped) seamlessly with the lead!
    We need more harmony in this world, Paul, especially after this most horrific attack in Alexandria, VA, upon persons targeted only because they were Republican representatives. I’m praying that the clashing cymbals of hateful rhetoric will cease, and that we can relearn the harmony of true, respectful dialogue once more.
    Blessings, my friend!

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