I believe in the power of music – to invoke old memories, to lift our spirits when we are sad or depressed and sometimes to make us laugh or dance. It was always a part of my family life from the time my sisters (6 of us) and my brother, were very young. There was always a piano in the living room and most of us took lessons from the sisters in the convent. My sister, Joan, was more fortunate; she had a professional teacher, Mr. Neff, who wore a suit and tie when he came to teach. My younger brother Jim became a rock musician playing guitar and even making it on to a Robert Palmer album. We, of course, became his groupies and followed his gigs.
We also loved to sing. Being of Irish descent, Danny Boy was a favorite and at family get togethers, whether it was a party or a funeral, “A Mother’s Love Is a Blessing, “ was always sung and brought both tears and smiles. When I was married and had children, I would sing them to sleep with 1940 War Songs like “The White Cliffs of Dover.” When I had my first granddaughter and she needed comforting, I would sing along with Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour” and dance around the kitchen until she fell asleep.
My sister was a fan of George Shearing and it was my first introduction to jazz along with my husband taking me to jazz clubs; I was privileged to see Ella Fitsgerald perform live at the Academy of Music. It remains my favorite genre of music.
Classical and church music touches emotions as well, inspiring a contemplative spirit and a lifting of hearts and souls. Even without classical training, hearing an orchestra perform a Maurice Ravel or Aaron Copeland concert is stirring. Being raised Catholic, church music was always a part of my life, beginning with Latin hymns which I didn’t understand the words to but which I loved to sing, to the more upbeat hymns of the contemporary music of the 70’s where guitars were played in place of piano and organs. I always loved to hear the moving songs at weddings and the comforting hymns at funerals.
The power of music can transform a bad day, giving one renewed strength and purpose. Have you ever watched the faces of those with their hand on their hearts, singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” or the contemporary Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA?”
In these hard times, when one recalls “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” music has the power to take us away from the troubles and worries of the day and bring us to the new heights of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I believe that we all can appreciate the beauty and joy that music has brought and will continue to bring to all of our lives.