Last weekend, in honor of Ellen’s birthday, we attended the Billy Joel concert in New Orleans. He put on a great show, he played all the hits, and his joy was palpable. But what I will remember most about the concert was not Mr. Joel himself, but the other musicians who played with him. Between “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” “River of Dreams,” and “Only the Good Die Young,” he and his band played a lot of covers (songs written or made famous by other artists). And when they would play these covers, a member of the band would step forward and lead the song while Mr. Joel would dutifully accompany him or her in the background. An enormously talented percussionist and backup singer belted out “Proud Mary.” The trumpet player gave an excellent instrumental version of “Wonderful World.” A roadie appeared and ate up the stage with an equally hilarious and respectable “Highway to Hell.” And, late in the show, the rhythm guitarist stepped up to the mic and blew the roof off the joint with a stupendous “Nessun Dorma,” the tenor aria from Puccini’s opera “Turandot.” The variety and musicianship were thrilling.
This sharing of the spotlight is not the norm at a rock concert. When the star is a solo act or a small band, there are usually backup singers, additional instrumentalists, etc., but they only receive a cursory wave or a brief mention during the curtain call. But in this instance, that norm was turned upside down.
Sharing is a simple virtue we learn about at an early age – although my children (and I) need reminding more often than I care to admit. And at the Chapel – and I mean this sincerely and objectively – I see a lot of sharing and very little of the territoriality that can beset parish leadership, a ministry, or even one’s favorite pew. But Mr. Joel’s concert reminded me that, while the act of sharing in and of itself is kind and just, an equally important benefit can be the improvement and/or enrichment of the total endeavor. That concert was better because of “Proud Mary” and “Nessun Dorma” along with “For the Longest Time.” Perhaps, in a time when folks are so divided and isolated, we can remember the benefits of a good share.