Write Again … The gift of music

Published 7:44 pm Friday, April 3, 2020

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Truth to tell, today’s monographic exercise may not be of much interest to most.

That is, what I intend to share with you is a mention of those songs, with and without lyrics, which have touched me in poignantly powerful ways over the years.

Now, to write about music is woefully inadequate, as opposed to actually hearing it … feeling it, being lost in the emotion it engenders.

Having said that, acknowledged that, let me mention a bit of the music that has touched me, sometimes almost inexplicably so, across the many years of my journey.

Perhaps the first experience I had in this regard was in hearing Bing Crosby sing Brahms Lullaby. It was way back in my single digit years. Trying to really explain how it made me feel would be futile.

Two songs that have always reached the inner core of my being are “Taps” (“Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake, from the hills, from the sky. All is well, safely rest. God is nigh.”) Hearing it played by a lone bugler on certain occasions is emotionally moving beyond words; and the other is “Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh. Shadows of the evening, steal across the sky. Jesus give the weary calm and sweet repose. With thy tenderest blessings, may our eyelids close.”

A wonderful song, benediction, is “Bless Be the Tie that Binds.” We always end our monthly nursing home programs with the residents and we who have come to be with them touching one another, and singing it.

At the end of each West Point home football game both teams line up in front of the Corps of Cadets, an announcement is then made: “Ladies and gentlemen. The alma mater of the United States Military Academy.” A complete hush falls over the entire stadium, then the band begins, and all cadets’ voices are raised. It’s truly an ethereal experience.

Two songs that lift me to a new state of being, an emotional state I simply can’t explain, are “Nessun Dorma,” and “Ave Maria” (the most familiar version).

The sweetest, most beautiful, simple song ever written, may well be “Silent Night.” Two Christmas Eves I attended midnight mass in St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Regensburg, Germany, situated by the Danube. This iconic church is centuries old, in a city that dates back to the Roman occupation. The service always ends with the main choir and the boys choir singing, in echo fashion, this beautiful carol. Try experiencing that, when you are a very young man over three thousand miles from home.

There are so many songs from movies that I feel will always be a part of me. Too many to mention them all.

The theme music from movies “Dr. Zhivago,” “Gone With the Wind,” and “Chariots of Fire” are now eternal. There are others, of course, but those three are nonpareil.

There is one song from a movie I must mention. In 1951, I went to a matinee one summer day in Asheville that made an indelible mark on my memory. It was “Showboat” and “Old Man River” sung by William Warfield. Incomparable. Then in the spring of 1962, having just returned from my time in the service, I attended a concert in Wright Auditorium (at East Carolina College) featuring William Warfield. He was magnificent, and teased the audience a bit by not singing “Old Man River” until the very last song in his encore. A musical moment to treasure.

Then, what a lengthy list of songs I could cite from so many Broadway musicals. So many wonderful songs that have become part of the musical fabric of America. Iconic.

Of course, my almost lifelong passion for barbershop harmony, both participatory and listening, has enriched me beyond my ability to express. The chords, the harmony, from quartets and choruses, what can I say?

And yes, I have long loved the songs of Willie, Waylon, Merle, Kris, Patsy and Ann Murray, et al. Oh, yes.

As I mentioned near the beginning of today’s column, trying “to write about music is woefully inadequate, as opposed to actually hearing it … feeling it, being lost in the emotion it engenders.” That’s just how it is.

So, friends, try to keep a song in your heart.

‘Til next time.