Bible stories are eternal for a reason. Their themes resonate profoundly with our collective human experience. No matter who you are, or where you live, or what beliefs you hold, chances are, the parables will speak directly to you. The words in the Gospels are just as relevant now as they were on the day they were written down – and if you need more proof of that, we encourage you to direct your attention to the new video from the formidably skilled pianist Tolu. A. Together with Virginia filmmaker Tyler Scheernschmidt, he’s given us a gorgeous, soulful, wholly-embodied live-action version of the famous Parable of the Talents, drawn from the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.
The Talents parable has long been a favorite of preachers (and preacher-like musicians!) It speaks straight to the collective unconscious and contains themes of divine fairness, destiny, industry, fatherhood, and the costs and rewards of servitude and devotion. It also turns on an intriguing double meaning: “talents” refer to the money disbursed by the master, but also to the native, God-given abilities of his servants. Tolu. A himself has talent to burn – he’s an electrifying piano player, soulful and imaginative, able to coax heavenly sounds from his instrument, perpetually glorifying the Almighty with everything he plays. As a student of the Bible, he knows the moral of the Matthew story. He’s not going to bury his talent. He’s going to put it out there for the world to see, confident that God will reward him for his faith.
Tolu. A is the focus of Scheerschmidt’s beautifully-shot and crisply-acted nine-minute clip for “My Talents.” The director captures the musician in his element: seated at the piano bench, heart open and hands in action, playing with force, vigor, and total commitment. His performance draws from gospel, pop, and R&B, and though he follows intriguing tangents, his focus never wavers. Scheerschmidt channels the intensity of an artist who is determined to be true to his talent, and it’s no exaggeration to say that Tolu. A could easily have carried a performance clip. Yet, the director weaves a modern dramatization of the parable between shots of the pianist in action. We’re shown the three children of a successful man, each of whom is entreated to make the most of the “talents” he is given. The first two sons honor the gift, make shrewd investments, and double their money. The third son slips his check under a mattress, gives himself over to indolence, and eventually suffers the consequences – estrangement from his patron and full knowledge of the unshakable burden of wasted time.