Friday, November 22, 2013

The Power of Music

On the morning of 9-11, the parish where I was working had a Tuesday staff meeting at 9 am, and I was supposed to leave early and go to another meeting at the chancery. Since the parish was just outside of Washington DC, none of this happened. The staff meeting became a planning meeting for how to dismiss the schoolchildren, many of whose parents worked for the federal government, with the least disruption.

We decided to have a school Mass while waiting for the parents, and although I wasn't a parish musician at the time, I insisted on having a little music. So before the Mass and at a couple of times during it, I played peacefully on the guitar. One of my indelible memories of the day is the look of relief on the face of a 2nd grade boy who turned in his pew to face me, as the rational motion of music gave him a leg to stand on, emotionally.

Music can foster courage. Musicians are always a part of armies, taking up space and resources that combatants might have used, simply to provide the emotional support for which music is uniquely suited. Likewise for the Christian, in a moment of trial or temptation, the memory of a Communion antiphon or the great initial leap of the Ave Maria antiphon can break in through the panic and restore order to the heart and mind.

50 years ago this afternoon, on an earlier generation's 9-11, this was the ordered response of the Boston Symphony Orchestra to a moment of tragedy and devastation. The story is at NPR.