Saturday, September 1, 2012

Billboard's Top 100?

     Two weeks ago, my wife and I were in Los Angeles for a wedding reception, mini-vacation, and belated anniversary celebration.  Since we were traveling alone, we decided that any entertainment/activities we might choose would be things that we would NOT do if we had our children with us.  So, on Friday afternoon, we rented a tandem bike and rode up and down the Santa Monica strand/bike path.  And, in the evening we went to the Hollywood Bowl.
      In advance of our trip, dear spouse imaginatively suggested we visit that icon of entertainment.  She told me that the concert would be the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra with the Colombian guitarist and singer, Juanes.  It's not as if we had much choice; we figured it would be fun -- even if we knew nothing about Juanes (I thought "Classical guitar -- great!").  The morning of the concert, there was an article in the LA Times about the evening's performer.  I came to learn that Juanes is one of the most successful Latin popular music artists over the last decade or so.
      We arrived at the Hollywood Bowl, carrying our Trader Joes' dinner (as were many other concert-goers!).  When the lights went down and Juanes took the stage with his ensemble, I quickly realized that my expectations were going to be blown sky-high.  Most of the concert was in Spanish.  The concert-goers ran the gamut from (as one reviewer put it) "elderly couples with a wine and cheese picnic basket, Asian young adults enjoying sushi, Colombians waving their flags, and plenty of seductively dressed young Latinas".  There was lots of squealing and dancing in the aisles (and seats).  And there was FABULOUS music.
       Who knew?  Well, it turns out, a lot of people -- those who, unlike me, don't limit their radio stations to a certain genre.  Dear spouse and I were blown away.  And I was reminded of a realization I had some years ago:  "I bet folks in Rome, or Tangiers, or Singapore, or Kampala don't pay much attention to theNew York Times bestseller list.  I certainly don't know what's "hot" on Le Monde's bestseller list orPravda's.
       Billboard magazine keeps track of the top 100 songs in many different categories/genres:  classical, pop, country, urban; Japanese pop, French songs, etc.  Most of us -- if we're music-listeners -- only listen to a few.  Similarly, unless we read a foreign language, or a book has been translated and deemed "hot", we rarely care about books not by American authors (at least those we might read for pleasure).  We often have a tendency to limit the scope of our experience to that which is most familiar.  We often do that religiously/spiritually as well . . . and, I suspect we're equally impoverished by that.
       Over the last three days, I have stood in front of several gatherings of incoming international students at the University of Denver.  When I told them that I believe that they enrich our university community immensely, I did so with a new appreciation of what I was saying.  An evening with  Juanes at the Hollywood Bowl can do that to you.  The final number "Odio por amor"*, has the refrain (sung in English), "It's Time to Change"**.  Amen.


Chaplain Gary

*  The lyrics (in English) can be found here:

**  If you're interested in the finale of the concert (mentioned and depicted above), take a look at this YouTube video (

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