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The Tryggestads — Jeanie, Lucy, Erik and Maggie — after Maggie's Treble Chorus performance at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.
Insight
Photo by Kevynn Dunn

My election year mantra: ‘Let me Listen’

Daughter's choral performance carries a deeper meaning in an era defined by division.

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TULSA, Okla. — Jeanie and I sat in Chapman Hall of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, listening to our 16-year-old daughter sing in Latin. But it wasn’t just “Jerusalem Luminosa (City of Light)” that I heard. 

I also heard a much simpler tune, belted countless times from the seat of a shopping cart in the Edmond Target by a 16-month old.

Every time we were there, Maggie insisted that we stop at the plastic display box with Disney princess dolls, the one where you pushed buttons to get a snippet of their songs.

Dax Curtis, Maggie Tryggestad and Keaton Beller at TPAC.

Dax Curtis, Maggie Tryggestad and Keaton Beller at TPAC.

We went through them all — Cinderella, Aurora, Tiana. (“Princess and the Frog” hadn’t even come out yet. It would be her first movie theater experience.) Maggie waved her arms and sang along with the princesses, especially Ariel. She misheard the lyric, “part of your world,” and gleefully sang, “How about … love!”

Kevynn Dunn

Kevynn Dunn

Now Maggie was singing in Latin as part of the 2024 All-State Treble Chorus. She’d only been in chorus for a few months under the direction of the amazing Kevyn Dunn at Oklahoma Christian Academy. We didn’t expect her to make All-State in this short a time. But she did.

Delaina Beller, who taught Maggie in fourth grade, served as her chaperone during the three-day workshop in Tulsa. Maggie’s elementary music teacher, Becca Loomis, now works at another school but was in town for the workshop, so we met her for dinner at the Dilly Diner. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Loomis talked Maggie into a career in music education. It wasn’t a hard sell.

Mrs. Beller’s husband (and The Christian Chronicle’s opinions editor) Jeremie drove up for the treble chorus performance and delivered Maggie’s best friends, Keaton Beller and Dax Curtis — a gesture that moved Jeanie and me almost as much as our daughter’s voice.

Not all of the songs were in Latin. One was “Let Me Listen” composed by Dan Forrest with text by Charles Anthony Silvestri. It was commissioned by Staley High School in Kansas City, Mo., and performed by the school’s students on their 2023 Civil Rights Tour.

The treble chorus conductor, Pearl Shangkuan of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., said that it was the perfect piece for this election year. Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:

Pearl Shangkuan

Pearl Shangkuan

We come from different places, you and I. On different paths we journey. Let me walk beside you for a while.

Let me listen. So briefly do our lonely paths converge, yours and mine, along this human journey. What hollow loss to never hear your song. Let me listen.

Let me listen. Let me listen as you tell your story — your triumphs and your tears, your trials and your fears.

Your story never has been mine to tell. So let me listen.

Listening is a lost art in 2024. Our postmodern world rejects absolute truth. If all truths are now equal, we make it our mission to pick a “truth” that best suits us and to proclaim it as loudly as we can, drowning out all opposing voices — which we demonize as the “other.”

I’ve heard my brothers and sisters do this many times, belting out a “truth” in an attempt to convince me that the depravity of the “other” necessitates my allegiance to their point of view.

Deep down, I suspect that I’m not the one they’re trying to convince.

I’m grateful that God blessed me with a job that pays me to listen.

Christians in Ukraine sing during a 2011 conference in Crimea. Three years later, Russia annexed the peninsula.

Christians in Ukraine sing during a 2011 conference in Crimea. Three years later, Russia annexed the peninsula.

One of the most moving and heartbreaking moments in my time with the Chronicle came in 2003 in Donetsk, Ukraine, when a young Armenian woman told me how different I was from the other Americans she’d encountered as a translator. I listened. I didn’t have an agenda. I genuinely wanted to know about the faith of the Ukrainians. I didn’t expect people to do things “like we do in America.”

Too many of us, even missionaries, make that mistake.   

Jesus said, “blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear” (Matthew 13:16). This year, may we seek to understand the lonely paths that our fellow humans tread. May we not see others as “the other.”

Listening doesn’t connote endorsement. There’s no blessing like the blessing of being heard.

How, then, should we respond to those who spout false doctrine, to those who deny the truth of God’s Word, to those who enrage us?

May I suggest the words of a 16-month old in a Target shopping cart: “How about … love?”

The Tryggestads — Jeanie, Lucy, Erik and Maggie — after Maggie's Treble Chorus performance at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.

The Tryggestads — Jeanie, Lucy, Erik and Maggie — after Maggie’s Treble Chorus performance at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.

Filed under: All-state chorus choral music christians and politics church and politics faith and politics Insight Let me Listen listening Opinion politics Religion and politics Top Stories Treble chrous

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