I’m in Salzburg, lying in bed about 100 meters from Mozart’s dad. He’s just outside my window in the graveyard of St. Sebastian church. When in town, I generally sleep within easy earshot of its bells. The bells of Salzburg ring with a joyful exuberance. They wouldn’t if its citizens didn’t like it that way.
Yesterday, in a tiny village church, I lingered, but it felt lifeless. Suddenly the dozen or so tourists loitering around me burst into a rich, Slavic hymn-—invigorating the church. They were a folk group from Slovakia who explained, “We can’t be in a church without singing.”
This morning here in Salzburg, I went to the 10 o’clock mass at the cathedral. As hoped, a choir and small orchestra filling the loft turned the back wall into a wall of sound. I was with my camera crew, in a dizzying perch, high on the side, enjoying a privileged birds-eye view of the musical action. Far below me a thousand people faced the altar. I faced the loft, where for 2 years of Sundays, Mozart served as organist: baroque scrolls, dancing cupids, conductors’ batons, swirling the icing on a musical cake.
On the 250th year of his birth, the musical genius of Mozart is still powering worship. Walking home, a woman on a bike artfully towed a tiny wagon under the spires. On it was a tall, triangular, black leather case. I said “Wow, only in Salzburg…a bike, towing a harp.” She looked at me and added, “A Celtic harp.” At the ATM a few minutes later I met a woman from a Sweet Adelines choir. She said “We traveled all the way from Pennsylvania to sing here in Salzburg…the people love us here.”
Music seems to weather the storms of modernity very well. It wouldn’t, if the citizens didn’t like it that way.