Music lifts the human spirit

Music is essential for, and to the survival of, the human spirit. What creates the conditions for the “humanizing” of men and women is the arts. Among the primary arts that were cousins to cave drawings, mythological stories, hunting and gathering (an art form for bodily survival), were the sounds of voices singing, drumming, and blowing into a piece of wood or reed fashioned to share rhythm and sound.

Music figures in, I believe, all of our lives: from the ancient folktales set to a cascade of sounds, the melodies of world religions expressed in liturgies and songs, the centuries of classical music, as well as other forms of music including rock music and the supporting flow of music for dance expressions. All music sustains us.

As a student of religion and the humanities in both church and college classrooms, I am embraced by music. You too, I’m sure! Music can be seen in the following ways: It elevates our emotions, settles our conflicts, unites us with other persons, comforts our duress, informs our dreams, creates a longing for a better world, recasts the old tunes in a present circumstance, and fulfills our talents of singing and finding expression in musical instruments. Think too, of the fact that music gives us a peek into what we regard as Divine, quiets a child’s sleeplessness, focuses our attention when a task is to be completed, brings two hearts together who seek a committed relationship, lifts our faith in the midst of patriotic events, and finally, we may say — all things may pass, but music speaks and anchors the heart.

In giving a partial overview of how we are resourced and made bigger and better persons by music, a few thoughts, I believe are important.

The presence of the Austin Symphony Orchestra was experienced this past weekend. A couple hundred persons, young and old, were recently the recipients of what I term, “heavenly sounds.” At this concert, a nationally reknowned playwright and gifted storyteller, Kevin Kling, graced the High School Auditorium. Kevin’s presentations were joined with the second special guest artist, Darrin Sellers. (Austin High School teachers and staff, be proud; This man received some of his “start” from your influence!) Darrin’s passion his whole life has been as a cellist. As a young man, he is already world class!

The Austin Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Stephen Ramsey, branched out its super performance with the title, “Celtic Carniva.” You of Irish background — I just know — had leaping hearts through the gifts of story and songs from Ireland. Children both young (actual children) and old, will find help at the Austin Public Library, to locate the folk story by Victor Zupanc: “The Burning Wisdom of Finn McCool. Narrated by Mr. Kling, we too almost sucked our thumbs! The story ends with a statement of the sucking of one’s thumb. You’ll have to read the story to find out why the thumb figures in so prominently.

A reminder for me, that relates to the universal expressions of multiple musical forms are in the Bible. Many references are reflected. Examples from the Old Testament are the following: The religious community, when after more than one bad day, expressed their sorrow. One writer stated: “They hung their harps on a willow.” The songs, were for some time, in a state of silence.

Note also the Biblical story, when an elderly, once King of Israel, Saul, was in a state of depression and rejection (the Bible’s word, “madness!”) A request was made to the present King David: “Come, play to me on your harp.” It was believed that the musician, David, could bring a season of healing and hope. Many of us have placed ourselves in the arena of music. All the difference in the world!

Marvin Repinski is a retired pastor of the United Methodist Church and board member for Austin Symphony Orchestra

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