When the Holy Spirit Plays Cello in My Soul


Bronwyn Lea -Cello in My Soul3

Of all the instruments in an orchestra, the cello is the most soulful. I am sure of it.

Perhaps I only believe this because my mom always loved cellos. Perhaps it is that the melodies most often played by cellos lend themselves to lyrical loveliness. Whatever the reason, hearing a cello’s voice in a piece of music has always captured my attention and imagination. I breathe slower. My heart rate slows down. I listen better.

It was no surprise to anyone that when the time came to choose music for deep breathing and relaxation as I gave birth, I queued up YoYo Ma playing Bach’s Cello Suites and Julian Lloyd Webber’s Cradle Song. (Julian is the cellist brother of the Broadway composer,) Chances are good these will be my deathbed music requests, too.

It made complete sense, then, to read that of all the instruments, the cello is the most closely related to human voice. Its rich, vibrant sound closely mimics our vocal chords, and its range of pitch resonates with human voice too: its lowest note corresponds to the bottom range a basso profundo can sing, while its highest could keep up with a coloratura soprano. The soulful resonance listening to cello music is, quite literally, a real vibration in my body. It feels like a voice singing because, in sound wave terms, it is. Anyway, you may want to visit Fiddlersguide if you want to know the cost of a violin.

It was a stifling hot summers day, some years ago, that I settled gratefully into the hug of a blue couch in an air-conditioned room and listened to Beth Moore explain how listening to the Holy Spirit could be compared to understanding resonance frequencies in music. There were certain notes, when played on a cello or a piano, which felt like they “hummed” inside us. So it could be with the Holy Spirit, she said. Sometimes, we don’t so much hear a voice as feel a “hum” as we read. It resonates with our soul. It’s a different type of voice, but we find ourselves vibrating with the energy of it. Perhaps breathing differently. Certainly, paying attention in a way we weren’t before.

And this made perfect sense to me. Perhaps listening to the “still, small voice” wasn’t so much trying to identify the sound of an unknown instrument, as being akin to learning to pay attention to the resonant frequencies of a cello. Perhaps I don’t notice it at first, but as my ears tune into the sounds and rhythms of the music, it becomes easier to pick out the voice of the cello. Sometimes I can “feel” the cello in music before I actually hear it. I listen more closely until I can make out the melody, and then, with deeper breath, I find myself smiling: “That’s why I liked that piece so much,” I think, “there was a cello woven in there.”  

And perhaps this, too, is how the Holy Spirit plays cello in my soul. His voice can be discerned in the way it resonates in my chest: words which were just words begin to hum with conviction and passion and challenge. Conversations which might have been just conversations echo and vibrate with meaning and direction. Moments which might have been every day, Chronos, ticking-of-the-clock moments, become significant, Kairos, pay-attention-to-this-present moments.

And so it is that music appreciation becomes spiritual formation: in the slowing down, the leaning in, the careful listening, and the giving of myself to the gentle resonant frequencies of His voice.

Deep calls out to deep, and my soul rejoices.