Review: Heavenly New Year Concert

God knows how to celebrate, and always puts on a “Heavenly New Year Concert” to top all the shows from past millennia.

I was recently invited to heaven to observe and write a story on their annual Heavenly New Year Concert. Here is some of what went on…

Composition submissions were open year round, and the competition was stiff, especially since Beethoven had regained his hearing.

Angel de Llimona, Heavenly New YearThere was Bach and Mozart and Debussy and Ravel and Shostakovich, and all the rest. Tchaikovsky was warned against even suggesting his 1812 Overture, under threat of hell. God said it had been mercilessly over-played and even removed it from all his playlists.

Steve Jobs was summoned from purgatory whenever technical advice was needed. Of course he was most irritated at being treated like a common tech-geek, and often refused, preferring instead to stay in purgatory and sulk over Apple’s lack of direction since his absence. God had always thought that he was well within his rights to sue over the company name, which he felt had been publicly copyrighted in the bible, in regards to Eve and The Tree of Knowledge. “And just look what came of that!” God would often yell at him.

Both God and the Devil agreed that too much reliance on technology could subvert all control over heaven and hell. So St. Matthew was summoned to keep hard copies. It got him out of choir practice, which he was very happy about, since even his best friend Jesus had heard his voice, and told him to give it up, and stick to what he knew best. “You don’t see me trying to do stand-up?” He told him. Although Jesus could be quite funny when you caught him in the right mood.

Practice for the Heavenly New Year Concert was intense. God was a slave-driver. If it had not been for the irrelevance of food and water, a mutiny would certainly have ensued. Of course an illusion of the body had to be perpetuated for roll call purposes. God would sometimes inhabit the form of a cricket as a practical joke. But it got old after the third or fourth time. “Me dad!” Jesus would whine with embarrassment, “Are you serious!” Plus it was no match for Robin William’s butter-knife routine, which was more left-field, as usual. Robin was God’s personal court-jester. The man had so much energy that once God wired him to a dead star and it regained its full fire. But when God wanted to cry from laughter, and a really good story, he sent for Richard, no last name required. God was still kind of sore about Richard refusing the court jester position, but Richard always did do his own thing.

God invited Gandhi to illusory tea on many an occasion just for thought-provoking conversation. He never could get Robin to sit still; he was riffing on the shape of the tea-cups before they hit the table, making references to renaissance pottery and obscure operas. God was always annoyed when he couldn’t figure out the references, even though he had created all of them. Richard of course couldn’t help but laugh hysterically at this. And then God would start laughing at himself. And for a few seconds, the whole world would laugh at itself too.

Saints of every religion; a congregation of shunned believers without method; auditioned. The line was enormous, due to the unprecedented amount of saints of Catholic origin. They even brought up another one during the auditions; Saint Stanley; patron saint of heavenly choir try-outs. God was not surprised, though he couldn’t figure out how they’d produced the complimentary glass candles so quickly.

One doesn’t like to admit it, but there were even haters among the saints. The competition stilted their sense of goodness, and turned everyone into a potential adversary. Some of the angels started hanging around, laughing at the more out-of-tune saints. This was their only satisfaction after being banned from try-outs on a very slim technicality of nepotism. They found this blatantly hypocritical of God, seeing that Jesus was not only part of the choir, but even conducted on occasion. He was such a tender conductor, that they didn’t have the heart to argue. Who could? The entire congregation of heaven, including God, all admitted that he had gotten a pretty raw deal.

When the competition got out of hand, what with saints walking around, saying things to better singers like, “You ain’t shit!” God had to intervene and remind everyone that it wasn’t American Idol, and that no one from that show, especially Simon what’s-his-name, had a hope in hell of getting into heaven. This sobered everyone, and reminded them of their manners. Plus, there were still many positions open for back-up instruments, the main thoroughfare being reserved for mere immortals, to be played on instruments of divine tuning. Some of the musicians would get a day-pass from hell on the night of the concert. Meanwhile, the Devil stayed out of their business, while they practiced. Music was the only crossover between God and Devil. There was even talk of a harp-fiddle duet. Robert Johnson was also mentioned, now that the Devil had finally released him from his contract. Who knew there could be a ceiling on such things?

Hendrix and Morrison and Joplin were in. Coltrane went straight to paradise on the wings of A Love Supreme. Monk was in too, since he was always half in anyways. Miles covered for the angel Gabriel, when his chops were gone. Course all the people waiting at the gates couldn’t hide their disappointment when Gabriel returned. Finally, Gabriel had to admit defeat, and was reduced to doing heaven-entry paperwork, at a desk next to Miles. Coltrane had to petition for Parker. God was still pissed about how he had ruined himself. Although he admitted that he had still managed to accomplish his purpose. God was an old softy for Jazz musicians, and for a good Jazz ballad, he would summon voices from even the third ring of hell.

It turns out heaven is a lot more complicated than previously assumed. God found the Hollywood version of heaven, with people dressed in white gowns, playing tiny harps, and floating on clouds, highly insulting. Did they really believe that the creator of all their natural wonders, had such a lame imagination? Jesus agreed with his father, often watching these incarnations, and punctuating his disbelief with a “Seriously?” God began to worry about the lack of variety in his vocabulary. Who knows but if he had gone to university instead of being crucified, where he would be now?

All the saints converged upon the final list, like college acting students. The ones that got in hooped and hollered, and the ones that didn’t, quietly mumbled obscenities so God wouldn’t hear. But they let it go in under a minute, they were saints after-all. They could only infer that maybe they couldn’t sing, but they were bad asses at keeping watch. And there was a measure of respect for good bad asses, that a choir singer could never attain. Street-cred.

Watching humanity was one thing, but you needed God’s permission to intervene. So mostly, the saints had to intervene indirectly, by throwing down millions of signs, and hoping a few would hit home. And on rare occasions, there would be a few who recognized all of them, and lived a better life because of it. It was difficult, but very satisfying work.

The night of the concert came, and some of the saints got queasy. There were saints throwing up everywhere. Dictators were brought up from hell to clean up the mess. They whined like spoiled toddlers. And the angels sat up in the rafters, elbowing each other and laughing hysterically. Most angels, God had realized, were exceedingly mischievous. But he thought it kept heaven interesting. Course he didn’t approve of the ones who went down to earth, looking for their kicks, by tripping people, whom they said, just rubbed them the wrong way. Course God was hip to their high standards, and mostly let it go.

The concert was miraculous. Heaven’s acoustics were unparalleled. The voices and music reverberated off the gravitational forces of the solar system. They danced on comets and rounded planets, audible to anything that lived. The earth stood still, then spun backward toward memory. The atom bomb dropped its protons and forgot the use of its own invention. Targeted cosmic showers set fire to all the marijuana fields. You could see the smoke from Space, overtaking even The Great Wall. And everybody finally stopped talking, and listened for a change. The angels all agreed it was hella tight, flyin’ around saying things like, “He tripped up the world!”

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