The title of this story is the first line of the song “I Believe,” which inspired me to write about my love of music. I believe in the power of a song. Whether the song is sung, played, or just sitting on a piece of paper, nothing else can compare to what a song can do to people. I think back to my grandpa telling stories of his quartet going to Vietnam to entertain the troops to help grasp the power of a song. When those that are defending this great country are barely getting by in life, music will always be something to bring them out of their woes. I also think back to a time in my life when music seriously touched my heart. I was at a funeral for a friend of the family very close to the age of my beloved grandfather, when a song came on that made me burst out into tears for a man whose life had not been that close to me. The song, “I’ll Never Pass this Way Again”, is a beautiful song that always brings an inexplicable emotion. My dad was the bass singer of the barbershop quartet in the recording, but the song is really a solo. The lead singer of the quartet was a man with passion unmatched by any other individual. Randy Chisholm died when I was about 9 years ago but whenever I see a video of him singing this song or I hear an audio recording of it I get choked up. There is never a dry eye in the house when it is played. The effect a song can have on the human soul is extraordinary. No form of entertainment can evoke such emotion in so little time. Was it the fact that the lead singer had passed on and he will never pass this way again as the lyrics suggest, or was it that I could be running out of years with my grandfather that caused me to cry? I don’t know, and to be frank it’s not important what the cause was, but it moved me in a way nothing else had before or has since.
One of my favorite movies is “Amadeus.” In this movie story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is told by his arch-nemesis Antonio Salieri. Salieri wanted nothing more than to be the greatest composer of his time. At a very young age something moved him so much that he could not live without having music to express his life. When it became clear to Salieri that he was never going to be better than Mozart, he tried to do anything possible to destroy Mozart. In the most memorable scene of this movie, Mozart’s wife secretly brings Salieri some of her husband’s compositions, without his knowledge, to see if they are worth any money. While making his way through the pages, filled with chicken-scratched notes, Salieri begins to hear the notes come to life, as if the parchment was a full symphony, and seems to fall into a trance. This goes on until he cannot take it anymore and drops the manuscript onto the floor, much to the surprise of Mrs. Mozart. She asks, in her simpleton tone, “Is it not good?” His reply, “It is miraculous.” While telling his life story, the elderly Salieri states many times that every time he heard Mozart’s music it was as if the voice of God was speaking to him. Salieri’s hate for Mozart eventually grew to admiration when he learned of the tortures of his life. Salieri was so moved, that he was willing to help Mozart write his greatest work on while lying sick on his deathbed. As Mozart was falling in and out of consciousness, Salieri was by his bedside dictating the notes his counterpart sang to him. The piece written was Mozart’s Requiem in Dm and is performed annually on the anniversary of his death. I was lucky enough to perform it in high school during an honors choir festival; a performance I will never forget.
Music not only has a spiritual and emotional impact on people, but also a physical effect that allows people to relax. Without the extra tension I am able do things that usually take considerable effort more easily. One of my Math teachers in high school would always bring in a boom box and play Mozart or Beethoven on test days. That was by far my most successful Math class, because after I got past the distraction of wanting to listen to the beautiful music, I was able to concentrate on the problems and remember formulas I spent hours studying (I use the word loosely!). Music helped me all throughout high school and my first year of college to achieve high marks without too much stress.
As I look back on the times in my life when music made me feel better, I don’t have to look far. Last week I was sick with a cold, when I turned on some of my favorite music. After a few minutes of listening to the sweet harmonies of the a cappella music I love, my congestion subsided and I felt clear as a bell. My symptoms did not come back until the next morning. Though music did not cure my sickness, it brought temporary relief that lasted all night, and I felt good if only for a few hours. The science of music lends itself to many careers in Music Therapy.
A couple of years ago a college quartet called Vocal Spectrum went to Washington DC to the Veterans’ Hospital to sing for soldiers who had returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with injuries. When they walked by the amputee ward, their host for the trip said the people inside would be in such a depressed state that their singing would not have any effect and would put a damper on the whole trip. They decided they wanted to sing for the amputees anyway. When they went into the individual rooms to sing to the men and women, an atmosphere of deep admiration surrounded them. The nurses said it was the first time many of the soldiers had smiled since returning from war. Their singing helped fill void that losing a limb had caused, and for a short time they were happy. This group has gone on to be very successful, yet they make it a point to return to the Veteran’s Hospital every time they do a show in the Washington DC area.
A song can inspire love, sadness, happiness, and even hatred. When Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” first premiered in Paris, France in 1913, it was met with a riotous crowd that left before the first act had ended. It was different than anything the cultured Parisians had ever heard, and, without the power to realize how spectacular the music was, they allowed it to upset them to the point that no insult could be strong enough to state how it made them feel. The ballet has gone on to be one of the most heralded pieces of music ever written or performed, yet when it was first displayed popular opinion said it was terrible. Music has a way of inspiring people to do great things, but it also can offend people who do not realize what the message is.
When I heard about the “This I Believe” program my mind immediately went to the song “I Believe”. I remember my grandfather telling a story about when his quartet sang it on a show and the bass was singing the solo. When he started to sing it a beautiful girl walked right into his line of sight and he repeated the first line of the song “I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows” for about three measures and the quartet improvised the final time and sang “and grows and grows”, to the howling laughter of the audience. The only way to sum up the way I feel about music is to play this song. Here are the powerful lyrics of this song for those who are reading this online, and cannot hear the piece:
I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night, a candle glows.
I believe for everyone who goes astray, someone will come to show the way.
I believe, I believe.
I believe above the storm the smallest prayer will still be heard.
I believe that someone in the great somewhere hears every word.
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry, or touch a leaf or see the sky,
Then I know why I believe!
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