Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Power Greater Than Ourselves in Music

The Bach chorale Break Forth, Oh Beauteous Heavenly Light from Christmas Oratorio was on my mind today. It is a popular chorale sung by millions of different choirs on Christmas each year. I spent time with my friend Holly, who I had not seen in fourteen years. Fourteen years since high school already! Time sure flies like a speeding bullet. So, Holly Westergren and I were reflecting on our high school years.
Especially on the pieces we used to sing in Princeton High School Choir. Works such as the Rachmoninoff Vespers, Britten's Hymn to St. Cecilia, Lauridsen's O Magnum, Durufle's motets and Ride on King Jesus came up. We started singing the Bach on Walnut St. in Philadelphia. Holly started singing Break Forth, then I joined in on the bass line. Usually, I refuse to start singing in a situation like that. I have refused to sing for family, dates etc...many a time. I could not help but sing along with Holly this time. The unique beauty of this Bach chorale is impossible to resist. There are these select moments in music when I wonder how a composer thought of something so beautiful. This is the case in all genres of music, and certainly the case in this Bach chorale. How did he come up with that? This chorale gives me a chill throughout my body because of the energy it generates. The music speaks to me about coming together as a family, community, or country to forget about all our troubles and celebrate. We must keep music going on in the world. It saves lives and changes lives. Music is a power greater than ourselves. When I hung out with Holly, sang in the services, and sang in Carmen tonight, I felt that power. A higher power does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. I think this is the case with the affect that music has on the soul. Also, the healing power of it is undisputed. There is currently a strike going on with the stage hands in Philadelphia's music scene. It is effecting the events at the Kimmel Center, Academy of Music, and the Merriam Theatre, in that as of midnight last night they are closed. This is a sad situation, because people need the Arts more than we might think. Music and any other art form saves lives. If someone is sick or suffering, a performance of a great work like "Carmen", which is currently being performed at the Academy could heal them. For example, when victims of strokes are exposed to music, they have a better recovery and outlook on life. Music helps people with Parkinson's disease move their muscles more effectively. It calms people down when they are experiencing an emotional crisis. I listen to music when I am distressed, and it helps me. There is a true story about a man who was stuck by lightning who developed an affinity for the piano after his accident. Oliver Sacks talks about this in his book "Musicophilia." The number of things that music can do is endless. Robbing the people of Philadelphia and the rest of the world of these artistic events is a sad thing. I sincerely hope that this situation gets resolved. A lot of people, have worked countless hours to make these productions possible, including the stagehands of course, and many people have paid for these tickets and have looked forward to these events. Do not underestimate how powerful these events are.

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