I am not heavily into miracles, but, maybe this time?
Our last Sunday evening together in Malang (East Java), weariness and weather (torrents – thunder and lightning) made us, Pauline, uncle-in-law Chocko, grandson Logan, aged 8 and I decide to eat in the hotel's restaurant. We were the only customers in a facility which seats 100. Feeling conspicuous we sat behind a pillar on the edge of this venue. The only sign that the restaurant was open for business was the easy- listening music which filled the space. As we came in I noted a small band on the stage near the bar. I wondered why they were playing tapes when they had a band? At first glance, they looked like a high school group and I assumed they were tuning up. The beautiful music kept on coming. However, the breaks between numbers were not regular as would have been the case if this was a recording. Curious, I moved out from behind the pillar to where I could see the band.
It was this band we were hearing! Despite the fact they were playing to an empty restaurant, they were absolutely brilliant. I could hardly believe my ears. I was deeply moved.
I brought my half-finished meal from behind the pillar and sat at a table directly facing the group. Now I had a front row view of them and they could see me. I called to the rest of my family. They were reluctant but I was insistent and so they brought their dishes and joined me front and centre before the band.
When they finished a song I applauded long and loud. Pauline and Choko tried to quiet me down, but I was stoked and there was no stopping. Our grandson Logan caught the spirit and at the end of the next number the two of us were arm-dancing, clapping, whistling, cheering and stomping. This was a bit much for Pauline and Uncle who made their exit. And so it was that grandfather and grandson were the band’s only audience.
I really felt for the young musicians and their singer. Fresh and open faces they looked rather like our church band in St Heliers only younger. It must have been demoralising for them to perform to an empty restaurant. I wanted them to know that Logan and I thought they were the best in the world - the best in ‘our’ world. From the smiles on their faces I think they got the message
Logan is quite a singer in his own right although the songs he sings to us are from traditional and religious backgrounds. He is also a performer, a clown of the grandpa (me) variety which can get him into quite a bit of strife (as it does me). Anyway, the band called him up. Reluctant at first, and then after shouted exchanges in Indonesian, he finally went up on stage. He was explosively excited but would not sing - fool around yes, but sing no!
After causing such a commotion it was inevitable that I would talk with them. As best, we could (they had little English and I had no Javenese) we shared mutual appreciation. We all wanted a group photo which is now a wonderful memento. I asked for the location of their next appearance promising to try to attend. We shared email addresses. With Logan almost asleep on his feet we parted.
The music and the encounter had me on a high.
Next day I realised there was no way we could attend the band’s engagement. Through the hotel desk, I left a message to the groups’ manager apologising that we could not attend their next performance. It seemed that this was the end of a wonderful encounter.
That night, at 9.45pm, Raymond, the group’s manager rang me from the foyer and asked could we meet. I asked, “When?” He said “Now”.
It turns out that teaching English is Raymond’s day-job. His passion is managing music groups. I had not met him the previous evening as he was at another venue.
We talked of our love of music and I shared about our wonderful music makers at our centre. In so doing I expressed my absolute belief in the songs written by Amy Gulvin. I told him that one day these songs had to be shared with the world.
Here I should say, that Amy knows full well my enthusiasm for her songs and one in particular which I have named “the best song every written”. The lyrics start, “There is enough”. I believe this and others of her songs should be played around the world. Amy does not disagree with me, but we both know that to prepare her songs for their next life, we will need the help of top, professional help that is technically perfect. Here we are talking of a substantial sum of money.
Raymond listened. Then he said, “We will help you. We will provide the backing for Amy’s songs. Well, at least let’s try.”
The suggestion set my mind reeling. “How could that be?” On the other hand I knew it could be. I have been reading of all kinds of digital projects that have been brought to completion because of international collaboration. Huge digital files of vision and sound can be shared around the world. It is not necessary for all the contributors to be in the same place. What Raymond was suggesting was possible.
“Let’s have dinner together. I will bring the group.” And this is how on the last night in Malang, we sat down with five outstanding young musicans and their manager.
Because of language limitations, conversation was a bit stop start. However, in the end we knew a great deal about each other. The band's name is 'Colours'. Three of them are university graduates – computer science and engineering, The two still in university are studying languages, one German and the other classical Arabic.
I had with me an MP3 (audio recording) of Amy’s song ‘There is enough’. They listened and were impressed.
At the end of this evening we agreed to more contact and to explore the possibility of co-operation on a production centring on one of Amy’s songs. This was a commitment to testing proof of concept. What that evening did prove was that there was a great deal of mutual appreciation and trust and a shared love of music. Our difficulties in language were over-ridden by body language. To my surprise and embarrassment, they presented me with a digital painting of myself.
Actually the whole thing makes my head spin – ‘blows my mind’ would be another way of putting it.
What is happening to me – around me –within me? Maybe I am just getting soppy. Am I tiptoeing on the edge of dementia? Or could it be something of unusual significance (a miracle) is really happening. Time will tell!
What I do know is that miracles do not guarantee easy success or happy endings. The life and works of Jesus demonstrate that. But miracles do open doors to opportunities that can lead to important new developments – lead to unexpected positive developments, open amazing new vistas.
And what has this to do with you? Let me say this. I think ‘surprises’ should be taken very seriously. Brother David Steindal Rast, the Catholic Monk whose teachings have helped so many (view him on youtube) says one of the names of God is ‘Surprise’. See if your surprise connects you with anything else in your life or thinking. Is there a connecting thread? Don’t dismiss surprises that hint at big things. Maybe a ‘miracle’ is waiting in the wings if you will only reach for it.
Well that is what I am asking myself. In reality, it’s all too improbable and irrational. But, that’s the stuff miracles are made of!
St Heliers, New Zealand, November 27, 2016