A symphony orchestra is made distinctive by its conductor, who, though part of the orchestra, acts primarily as its public face and official spokesperson. As the symbol of the orchestra’s structure and stability, conductors lead, direct, govern, and coordinate the orchestra. Yet, their role is not absolute.
Conductors are masters of the repertory. Whereas the instrumentalists master their parts, the conductor functions like a director of traffic not only learning the entire map of the musical highway but also dealing with the interrelationships of sections to whole. The orchestra looks to the maestro for direction to make beautiful music.
Conductors interpret the score according to the composer’s intent. Wise and strong conductors consult with their instrumentalists. Here, consulting means not soliciting an opinion but a fact, as one consults another for the time of day. In the final analysis, all breathe together as one with the maestro's interpretation as the final word.
Conflicts must be resolved with due respect for each instrumentalist. Still, orchestral unity rests not with the individual sections but with the maestro. The conductor leaves his imprint on the orchestra’s reputation thus separating his orchestra from all others. Arturo Toscanini and George Szell come to mind.
The maestro is to the orchestra what the Pope is to the Universal Church.
The Office of the Pope
The Pope is the successor of St. Peter and the perpetual visible source and foundation of unity in the Church. He is the visible head of the Body of Christ. The Pope, in the Office of Peter and in union with the bishops, leads, and directs the Church. With his bishops, he governs. This governance is not a monarchical reign. The Pope presides over the Church in charity. He proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine of faith or morals, and only at this time does he speak infallibly, ex cathedra, from the Chair of Peter. Having consulted with the bishops and laity before pronouncing on these matters, he exercises the supreme Magisterium (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 891). The faithful must be prepared to receive this teaching.
Like the conductor, who has mastered the entire musical score, the Pope’s vision extends across the universal Church, the Eastern and Western, but not the autocephalous Orthodox Churches. In exercising vigilance over the faith, the Pope hands down the living Tradition for the sake of the universal good.
When the Church is confronted with heterodoxy or conflict that threatens to sever unity, the canonical and hierarchical Church must preserve or restore that unity.
Individual Sections of the Orchestra
Composers use the individual instruments for an array of colors to bring out the fullness of the piece. The string section, of itself a hierarchical unity, forms the backbone of the orchestra. It is the most homogeneous group of the entire orchestra having the same family identity. From small to large, they share in the same sonority. Still, they need other instrumental families for contrast, variety, and depth.
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Each of the woodwinds offers contrasting colors; the brass, strength brilliance, and intensity, and finally, the percussion section, drama and surprise.
Individual Sections of the Church
The Body of Christ is composed of two groups: the Ordained (Orders) and the Non-Ordained of laity and consecrated religious.
Within universal communion, the Body of Christ functions in smaller ecclesial bodies: unity among the ordained persons, bishops, priests, and deacons, and unity among the bishops themselves. The non-ordained ecclesial groups are represented by the laity, Christian families, as well as consecrated religious men and women (Ladislas Orsy, Receiving the Council, 2009, p 7-8, 11-13).
St. Peter symbolizes the Church’s structure of Orders, permanence, stability and law, while St. Paul represents the paradigm of the non-ordained in which leadership is creative, dynamic, and idiosyncratic.
The Ordained, the bishop with his presbyters and deacons, resemble the orchestra’s string section. Like the violins, violas, cellos, and basses, they too are hierarchically constituted. They speak and act in unison.