In these days of the indiscriminate bandying about of the word “artist” to describe pretty much any teeny-bopper who can hold a microphone to her face, I wanted to bring to my readers a description of a personal hearing of a true musical artist.
On Saturday night, October 6, a few student friends and I had the opportunity to hear Mark Jenkins, euphonium soloist with “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band. Of course, the band’s performance of other works was impressive — I enjoyed the rendition of Mackey’s Asphalt Cocktail and John Williams’s March from 1941, but it is Jenkins’s euphonium that I would drive many miles to hear again. (I sincerely hope Jenkins is a believer: discovering that he possesses a sense of being gifted by God would stack joy upon joy, as I re-live the finest soloistic musical performance I’ve experienced in at least five years. This is saying a lot, because I hear a lot of good music regularly.)
Jenkins’s performance was astounding. It was emotionally charged and of high musical impact. During one stretch, he pinned my ears to the wall, then proceeded to mesmerize me. Moments later, he undid me with rapturous phrasing and tones. It was not only the brilliant effervescence of the dazzling concert piece that impressed. The linear beauty of the encore, a tender aria from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, was even more deeply moving. For me, the presence of words in this performance would have compromised the sheer beauty of the music; no singer could have approached this purity.
A further response on responses. I think standing ovations are far, far too common these days. In this case, however, I was among the first ten people to stand for Mark Jenkins. I remain proud of my decision to “stand out in a crowd.” Even after the soloist’s return to stage, not everyone in the audience was standing, and that’s fine, but I did find the seeming greater enthusiasm for a lesser-talented vocalist (whose mic was far too live) imbalanced and telling. The public doesn’t always have a developed sense of artistic quality! I don’t discount that the vocalist’s songs clearly impacted the majority of the audience that night; however, musically speaking, the singing was not in the same league as the offerings of the euphonium soloist.
Thank you, God, for endowing certain humans like Mark Jenkins with gifts of great aesthetic value.
Thank you, Mark Jenkins, for showing a couple thousand people at Shea’s in Buffalo what a truly artistic performance is.
P.S. For those interested, Mark Jenkins’s Marine rank is abbreviated as GySgt. (Despite the fact that at least two military families were represented among my group, no one actually knew what “GySgt” stood for, before looking it up!) I opted out of using the military rank above, because Jenkins is not my GySgt. In relation to me, and in relation to 99% of the October 6 audience, Jenkins was no military man; he was simply an artistic performer. Similarly, I don’t use the title “pastor” to refer to someone who is not my pastor. If the person doesn’t stand in relation to me as pastor, or father, or lieutenant, or head honcho, I don’t see the point in using either an honorific or a functional title when addressing him/her. Nor do I want people outside of an academic context to refer to me with my academic title. This is just me, and I do realize I’m in a tiny minority here.