. Ode to Joy My final symphony---my best by far!--- Which crowns a challenged life of brilliant works. Vienna’s finest came! Some from afar: Nobility, musicians, Prussians, Turks. A triumph! Yet it made my proud heart bleed: The orchestra refused to let me lead. They argued I could not conduct from silence--- The man who leads must hear and sense the mood Within the concert hall lest he do violence To the score. Though pained, I understood. A maestro who breaks tempo earns each jeer. O, how I long for youth---when I could hear! Alone within my flat I pound each note And weep with each piano string I break. I listen for the music that I wrote And settle for vibrations. O, the ache Of knowing that my eardrums have been bound, My music spent. To never hear one sound! I brood about the symphony last night. I truly cannot tell how well they played. The strings and woodwinds---was their tone too light? The baritone and alto---did they fade? The pacing? Was the timpani too loud? I’ll never know: should I feel shamed or proud? This much I grasp. The music that I’ve wrought Has left the words of Schiller much improved. In melody and harmony I’ve caught True brotherhood and God, and all I’ve loved. I could not face the audience for fear! But when I turned, I saw Vienna cheer! O Fate! Must silence be my only choice? I dream each chord, each note, each treble clef And pray that God above can hear my voice. How else can I compose now that I’m deaf? Perhaps in Heaven I’ll again be whole. For now, the Ninth has soothed my battered soul! . Poet’s Note: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony premiered on May 7, 1824 at the prestigious Theater am Kärntnertor in Vienna. The performance was conducted by Michael Umlauf, the theatre's Kapellmeister, who allowed Beethoven on-stage but strictly instructed the musicians to ignore any directions from the deaf composer. When it was over, the symphony received rapturous applause which Beethoven could not hear. Legend has it that the young contralto Carolina Unger approached the maestro and turned him around to face the audience, to see the ovation. . . The Silent Choir Loft Our harmonies were flat and seldom tight And some of the more modern music choices Were loud instead of beautiful and bright. Still we rejoiced in lifting up our voices. We sang to God for our small congregation! But that was long ago. I’m bold to ask: How long till we again sing celebration? How long must hymns stay muffled in a mask? What diabolic force could make a vice Of lifting hearts and spirits up with song? I cannot think the cure is worth the price When banning heartfelt worship seems so wrong. . . Brian Yapko is a lawyer who also writes poetry. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.