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‘Joy’ through music

I am not sure who sent me the flash mob of “Ode to Joy,” but thank you. It was delightful.

The scene was a large plaza in Europe. First there was one bass playing the tune. He was joined by a cello. Next came a bassoon followed by violins, French horns, trombones, and trumpets. When the whole group came together there was a director added.

The selection lasted just over five minutes. What a joy to listen to these talented musicians. The last thing was to add voices. Although I recognized the tune, I guess I never realized that were words to accompany it.

The audience was enthralled with the music. Little ones danced and flapped their arms as if directing. One young man even climbed up a lamp post to have a better view. Everyone was having a wonderful time.

It was just what I needed last Sunday morning. Although it was not a hymn, it had the quality of one. It was worshipful, peaceful, joyful. Everyone was smiling as they sang. Some recorded the event. Some took photographs.

This is a very basic song learned by most students of music in their early days. I recall my children play it on their instruments. Jill played it on the piano as well.

I found out the song was written in 1785 by German poet and historian, Friedrich Schiller, however, it is best known for its use by Ludwig van Beethoven in his Fourth Movement of his Ninth Symphony completed in 1824.

The words in English (provided by chordify.net) are here for you to read.

Joy, resplendent God sent glimmer

Daughter of a bliss divine!

Drunk with flames that in us simmer,

Enter we They holy shrine.

What routine hath split asunder,

Thy enchantment will re-bind

We shall brothers be in wonder,

Where Thy wings abide so kind.

What is there about music that transcends languages and cultures? Music draws us together like nothing else. Right now, we are searching for ways to unite us. How about we let music play a part? With the Christmas season coming, why not share the music of the season?

Years ago, I heard a musical written by Bill and Gloria Gaither. It was called “He Started the Whole World Singing”. I sent for the tape to be able to listen to it again. I liked it just as much the second time.

At the time our church had a large group of active teens that had their own choir. I talked to them about the musical. They were excited to be able to sing what was a grown-up musical. They agreed to participate.

Next, I went to our two churches looking for some adults to work with us. I found some who could be soloists and practice was underway. Many of the adults who volunteered could not read music, so I had to teach them their parts. We practiced from October through most of December. Everyone was so faithful. They showed up every week and really worked hard to learn the music.

I want to stop here and give those young people the credit that they deserve. Without all of them who read music I would not even have tried it.

We also needed three narrators. Adults filled those roles. They did not practice with us until the tail end. They just needed to hear the music and follow along to be able to read their parts.

The thing really came together. We filled the choir loft at the Russell United Methodist Church and then some. We brought in some stools for the young men to sit on. One of the second-hand stores in Jamestown even provided the stools for free since it was for a Christmas production.

The night of the performance I had laryngitis. I could not sing a note. All I could do was mouth the words to keep everyone together. The church was full. The program went off without a hitch. We had piano and organ accompaniment and it turned out beautiful. I was so proud of everyone.

As I look back on this venture, I realize that many of the participants no longer go to either church. Some are deceased. Some have moved away. It could only have been done at that particular time. Many of the young people were seniors who would be moving on to complete their college education.

I still love that musical. I do not have a CD of the music, only a tape. I wish I had the CD so that I could still enjoy it.

We used the music for the choir that opened the fair on several occasions. The music is not only for Christmas – parts adapt quite well to other occasions. My prayers today are for all of the young people who participated in that production. Although many are away from here, I wish them blessings and I secretly hope they are still singing. I hope it was a happy memory for them.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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