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Healing Hands:
American Music

November 21, 2016

Editorial Note: This editorial was written several weeks before the Presidential election.  With the strong belief the election would be extremely close, we understood the need to offer hands of unity towards all Americans. 

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Noted historian, David McCullough once opened a national broadcast talking about the unifying influence American Music plays especially during difficult and divisive times.  He reminded his audience of the important role music played during one of our darkest time in history, World War II. 

In terrible, stressful or reflective times, great lyrics, often from unexpected authors, came to enrich our lives. 

The beginning lyrics of America the Beautiful, written by Katharine Bates while viewing Colorado from the summit of Pike’s Peak, came “float[ing] into my mind; O beautiful for spacious skies, / For amber waves of grain, / For purple mountain majesties / Above the fruited plain!”  Within a few years after the song’s release, its universal popularity surprised her.  Yet while “later reflect[ing on] its enduring hold it  is clearly due to the fact that Americans are at heart idealists, with a fundamental faith in human brotherhood.””

Julia Ward Howe's stirring, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, was written during the Civil War after a request. While touring a Union camp, Julia was encouraged, by a Reverend; “in one of those rare flashes of inspiration that leave their mark on . . . history” to pen new lyrics to a familiar tune.”  After agreeing, she "awoke [the next morning]...in the gray of the early dawn, and to my astonishment found that the wished-for lines were arranging themselves in my brain. ‘I lay quite still until the last verse had completed itself in my thoughts, then hastily arose. . . I shall lose this if I don't write it down immediately.’”  Beginning “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;” ending with “While God is marching on.”

“I’d like to write a great peace song,” Irving Berlin told a journalist in 1938, “but it’s hard to do, because you have trouble dramatizing peace.”  After several unsuccessful tries, Berlin remembered lyrics written in 1918.  After penning a few changes, he asked Kate Smith to introduce the song on her next radio broadcast.  It became an instant success with Americans seeking comfort in what they knew was the coming and “greatest” conflict.  “While the storm clouds gather far across the sea, Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free.  Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, as we raise our voices in a solemn prayer, God bless America, land that I love, Stand beside her and guide her.”

Enduring music has played an important role in uniting, strengthening, and inspiring America.  Maybe it's time to look up some old favorites; patriotic songs, Hymns or even Christmas Carols to sing with family during the holidays.  Let us refrain from the negativity and feelings of hopelessness. Rather let us remember the strength of unity that makes us uniquely American. God bless you, and God bless America!

Mark, Bill and John

 



 


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