Music has touched my spirit deeply, yet differently, during the various seasons of my life. I grew up as most… first listening to the music my parents would enjoy. As I aged, my tastes expanded and I developed my own soundtrack for my life. Recently I have grown to appreciate the full magnitude of how music can minister to the human spirit.
Music can take us back to a single moment in our personal story, just as it can stand in testimony to a moment that shook the world. When times are at their best, music can express our joy so purely that it can lift us even higher. When times are at their worst, it can heal us, helping to express the depth of sorrow that we find difficult to acknowledge or comprehend. Music brings meaning to the mundane; uplifts and sustain us; shepherds us through life.
In spirit of this issue’s theme, I have chosen a few moments throughout history that have shepherded people with the magic of music:
1. Chester: American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)
This patriotic song by William Billings helped rally the troops to the cause of freedom in the early days of our nation’s history.
2. Nearer, My God, to Thee: Titanic (1912)
This heart wrenching moment showcases the most sacred of all purposes for music. The musicians playing this to offer comfort and solace during tragedy is almost unfathomable.
3. Silent Night: The Christmas Truce of WWI (1914)
This unusual moment when opposing troops took turns singing the beloved carol to each other, laying aside hostilities to find their common humanity. The next morning, in some places, German soldiers emerged from their trenches, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. Allied soldiers came out warily to greet them. In others, Germans held up signs reading “You no shoot, we no shoot.” Over the course of the day, troops exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons and hats.
4. Adagio for Strings: FDR Funeral (1945)
This masterpiece became an incredible soundtrack to the sadness of this national moment.
5. We Shall Overcome: The Civil Rights Movement (1963–1968)
One can hardly hear this song without being transported back to this troubled time in our history.
6. Eternal Father, Strong to Save: State Funeral of President John F. Kennedy (1963)
The Navy hymn was forever engraved into the hearts of the nation with its noble brass rendition at the Kennedy funeral. Later the tune was used in “PRAYER FOR OUR TIME,” an anthem composed after the 9-11 tragedies which has been used for many dedicatory observances through the years.
7. Where Have All the Flowers Gone: Vietnam War (1955–1975)
This song and “Blowing in the Wind” captured the national unrest and profound sadness surrounding the loss of life during the Viet Nam war.
8. Imagine: John Lennon Assassination (1980)
This song went to the top of the charts following the Lennon tragedy. To this day a memorial across from his New York Apartment bears the name of the song and is a shrine to the fallen musician and peace advocate.
9. Song of Athene & Candle in the Wind: Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales (1997)
John Tavener and Elton John are musicians of vastly different styles but they were brought together for this important international day of mourning. Tavener’s soaring anthem was an unforgettable moment of hope for the funeral of the “people’s princess.”
10. God Bless America: Aftermath of the September 11 Attacks (2010–2014)
Ball parks began adding this treasured national song to the pre-game or mid-game festivities. It helped bring the nation together in the aftermath of the 9-11 event.
I challenge you to think of times in your life when music went beyond tickling the ear and impacted your heart! I think you will discover that music is one of the most sacred of all the gracious gifts we have been given.