Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sweet Music

We were visiting Boothbay Harbor in Maine, exploring a little shop when we first heard it. This was more than 10 years ago (before we began going to Europe for vacations). Maine is a great state to visit (and I even harbor the occasional thought of retiring there). But that's not what this story is about.

Stepping into this little shop, I heard the most perfect melody playing over the store's sound system. It was an instrumental number, something I had never heard before. I was so taken with the melody that I asked the store clerk what tape they had on--she told me, and I looked up the name of the particular number playing. It was from Andrew Lloyd Weber's newly composed Requiem, the Pie Jesu portion of the mass. Only later did I hear it again, and realize that in fact it was a choral number.

I was reminded of this first hearing when my husband and I attended church today--the Pie Jesu was one of the featured pieces of special music. It always brings a tear to my eye--it is just so exquisitely written. If you don't know it, here is Sarah Brightman singing it (it was for her as original featured soloist that Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the piece):

There have been other pieces of perfect music that have captured me from the first hearing. I loved the series on the Civil War directed by Ken Burns, and fell in love with the one piece they used repeatedly throughout that series: Ashokan Farewell, written by Jay Unger.

Music, of course, has this incredible ability to insinuate itself into the very fiber of our beings. Years ago, when I was invited to go and see a stage version of "Amadeus" I warned my theater companion that I was likely to cry, if I heard any of Mozart's music. Sure enough--the opening strains of one of Mozart's pieces began, and I dissolved into tears.

One of my favorite movie scenes comes from "The Shawshank Redemption" when Andy Dufresne locks himself in the office, and plays an aria from "The Marriage of Figaro" over the prison loudspeaker system. If you've never seen it, go here.

Sweet music.

Shakespeare makes multiple references to music in his poems and plays. This quatrain sums up the power of music:

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.

Merchant of Venice Act V, scene i

Let the sounds of music creep in our ears. Ah, sweet music.

Any favorite piece of sweet music that moves you?


NCmountainwoman said...

So many, so many. It's hard to select one. One of my favorites is "Panis Angelicus." Always sends chills through me and makes my eyes moist just as it did the first time I heard it.

There is a drawback to such sweet music. It can be performed only by the perfect voice. There should be a law prohibiting voices of lesser quality from performing my favorite. In those cases, it send chills of another kind before I can reach the remote and turn them off.

Beverly said...

What a beautiful post. I shall listen to those pieces. I think I will never forget the movie, "Life is Beautiful." The husband plays the music from The Tales of Hoffman and turns the speaker toward the window so that his wife can hear it. The love that that man showed for his family brings me to tears just thinking about it.

I was reading about grief the other day and the writer was speaking about how certain melodies or words of songs can bring tears at moments when you thing "you're over it." (Believe me, you're never over it.) My husband had a booming bass voice. Whenever we sing "Wonderful Grace of Jesus" or "It is Well With my Soul," my daughter melts in tears.

Click on my first link on my blog today...A Mark on My Wall. Vicki has a post along these lines.

Mary said...

Good choices, Donna. There are all sorts of music that move me. Randomly.

Anvilcloud said...

I've occasionally murdered Ashokan in my basement.

Ruth said...

I enjoyed the video clips very much. I have not heard the Requiem piece before even though I have seen most of Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musicals. I have many favourite pieces. Vaughn Williams' Lark Ascending is one of them.

Ginnie said...

This is so strange. As I read your post I thought of the scene from "Life Is Beautiful" just as your commentor Beverly did. I had her same reaction.

Mary said...

I forgot to comment on your new header. I like it.

Africakid said...

The Messiah does me in every time...maybe it's good I only listen to it in public once a year! Usually I forget to take tissues along, too.

RuthieJ said...

What a great post Donna! I love all the music you've included. Ken Burns' documentaries are great not just for the content, but also the music. Did you ever see his Lewis & Clark story? That had wonderful music too. More great music in a Masterpiece Theater presentation several years ago: The Choir. Thank God for music!