Youth Messenger Online Edition

July-September, 2018

The Cancelled Concerts
The Cancelled Concerts
Oliver Tóth

When I was 16 years old, I transferred from a regular high school to a music high school. From the beginning, I knew that I would have difficulties there because most of the performances would be on the Sabbath. Nevertheless, I trusted that the Lord wouldn’t leave me alone.

At the beginning of the school year, life at the new school was very exciting. My first orchestra class was enjoyable, and immediately I fell in love with the harmony. The conductor, who was also the school principal, announced the date of our first concert. We were preparing for the Jubilee concert which takes place once every ten years. Playing for such an event was a great honor and privilege. Despite the anticipated excitement, my heart was beating faster, and I was sad because the concert was scheduled on a Sabbath day. Since I was new at the school, I didn’t know what to do or to whom I should tell my problem.

Courageous to speak up

I decided to first consult one of my classmates since this was his second year at this school. When I shared my problem he told me, “In this school you have no option but to attend all the concerts. You need to go and speak with the conductor immediately.” After praying earnestly, I finally gathered courage to talk with the principal/conductor. When I spotted him, I tried to speak to him, but he was in a rush. So, while he was walking, I walked beside him and explained my situation.

“Mr. Istvan,” I said.

“Tell me quickly,” he answered. But I couldn’t speak quickly as I didn’t even know what to say. “I am a Seventh day Adventist and . . . ,” I said.

“Yes, and what?” he answered. I continued, “We keep the Sabbath holy, which is the fourth commandment, and therefore, I can’t take part in the concert on Saturdays.”

“No way! In this profession the concerts are usually on Saturdays. Then you’ll have to choose another profession!” replied the conductor.

“I just wanted to say I can’t go to this concert,” I answered.

“I can’t do anything about this now,” he replied.

At that moment, we arrived at his office, and he told me, “Just talk to your priest about this.” Although the most difficult challenge was over, I kept praying for I didn’t know how he will deal in my case.

During the next orchestra class, we had a section rehearsal, and the lead-teacher asked me if everything was alright. I answered, “Yes,” but he wasn’t convinced. Afterwards, some students came to me and asked if everything was alright with me. As I walked into my next violin class, my teacher also asked me if everything was okay with me. I started to tell him that we have the Jubilee concert coming up and we are preparing for it. He interrupted me and said, “which is on Saturday.”

“Yes,” I said. He sighed and was deep in thought. I remembered that when he accepted my application to attend this school, I had told him about my religion and that I am a Sabbathkeeper, so he understood why I was so sad. Soon after he told me, “You have to choose what’s more important, your religion or your profession because there will be many more concerts on Saturdays.”

“I respect your decision, and your devotion to your religion is admirable,” he said. Next, he told me he will go and talk with the principal/conductor, and he left the classroom. Although I felt this was a great trial for me, I knew the Lord was working in my behalf. While my teacher was talking with the conductor, I was praying and asking the Lord to solve the problem. After 10 minutes, he came back and told me, “I was talking with the conductor and he said you must go to the rehearsals, but you don’t have to go to the concert.” I could not thank the Lord enough, for I felt like a big burden fell off my back. I had no strength but to say, “Thank you, Lord!”

A few months later, we had another concert which was not on Sabbath. For that concert I was the principal second violinist and the conductor complemented me on my performance. There were other concerts later, but I didn’t have to perform.

National orchestral competition

The next scheduled performance was the National Orchestral Competition which was on Saturday. Before we started our rehearsal, the conductor looked at me and asked, “May I say something?” I nodded, and he explained to the members of the orchestra why I couldn’t participate in the concerts on Saturdays. He then expressed his regrets about the situation. After the rehearsal some of my classmates came to ask me what is my religion? In this way, I was able to share my faith and my testimony with them. While my classmates were amazed at the flexibility of the conductor, I was sure that it was the Lord who softened his heart. I thank the Lord that from then on, I had no more problems with Sabbath concerts.

“I will take you out of the performance”

On another occasion, we were preparing for a concert series. My conductor knew I wouldn’t play on the Sabbath and he took that into consideration. But on this occasion, the concert was scheduled for Friday evening. Again, I felt that I was in trouble because the conductor assigned specific parts to the different players. The orchestra played Bach’s Piano Concerto No. 7. If I couldn’t play in this concert, he would have to find another violinist to take my place. But, if he would do that all the other assignments would have to be overturned. Again, I prayed to the Lord and asked Him to make the arrangements for me because I didn’t want the conductor to be angry with me. But most importantly, I didn’t want to give up my principles. When I saw the conductor in the hallway with only a table between us, I told myself, “Here is my opportunity; and I have to go to him now.

“Mr. Istvan,” I called. He looked up, smiled at me and asked, “What’s up?”

“My Sabbath is from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown ...” I said.

He didn’t wait for me to finish the sentence; his face changed, and he became very angry which was understandable.

“Then I will take you out of the performances completely. That’s it!”

I replied, “I thought we can solve this if I play on the other days except on that Friday.

“Again he replied, “I will take you out, and you won’t play.”

I didn’t want to make him any more upset, but just continued praying to the Lord. I didn’t want to make any problems for the conductor. I only wanted to keep the commandments.

The next morning, I heard this announcement on the school intercom, “Attention strings! After classes are over, go to the message board. Your orchestral arrangement has changed.” Again, I heard, “Strings go to the message board because the orchestral arrangement has been changed.”

I was so curious what had changed. When I went to the message board, I saw the whole division was changed. I was not in the performance on Friday, but I was in the weekday performance. What did that mean? Some students who had learned to play the second violin part had to learn the first violin part, which was new for them. The students were upset and asked, “What is this? Why were our parts changed?” Some of them were swearing.

Loved, Thankful, and Radiant

But my heart was so thankful because I knew that my God had influenced the conductor to make this change, and this confusion was because of me. I felt God’s inexpressible love. While everyone was dissatisfied and complaining, I slipped quietly away, my face radiating with happiness.

From this experience I have learned how precious we are to the Lord. If we stand for the truth and endure trials, He’s ready to help us. Then we can gain more precious experiences. The Lord helps us even when we don’t deserve it, because we have no merits. Yet we know, He has promised, that He “will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Let us not forget that the closer our relationship with God the stronger the temptations Satan brings to us. “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:14, second part).

Dear young people and my musician friends! Trials are coming to our life. If we are faithful to the Lord at the beginning of the trial, He will protect us and won’t release our hands. The first step is the most difficult one, but if we persist in keeping God’s commandments, He will defend and bless us. “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).