By: Becky St. Clair
Fear. Anxiety. Confusion. Lack of assurance.
All of these feelings are normal and understandable in the unfamiliar world in which we now find ourselves. As a Christian college, PUC supports faith in what never fails: Christ. And as a department of music, we also believe in the calming, reassuring, healing power of God’s gift of music.
Whether it’s COVID-19 or a significant change in your personal life, adapting to a new normal can be challenging at best. This month, our faculty share their perspectives on the importance of music in situations like this.
Resident Artist, Acting Chair, Symphonic Winds Ensemble Director
English is a great language for talking about concrete things. Trees and cars and houses and rocks are all well served by our local tongue. But abstract concepts, like hope, love, and faith are much better voiced in the language of music.
For me, when I need a shot of faith, I turn to J.S. Bach (the Magnificat is my go-to piece). Others may find the same message in Christian contemporary music. For hope, the Great Gates of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky/Ravel) always thrills me. For love, a melody from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake or maybe a Schubert song will do, or maybe you would prefer Here, There, and Everywhere by The Beatles. In any event, let’s buoy our spirits by listening to the music that feeds our better angels.
Jenelle Westerbeck Anderson
Choir & Vox Pro Musica Director
It may seem rather silly writing about how music can positively impact our feelings, energy, creativity, etc. because it seems so self-evident to many, including me. But it is true that different music will speak to various individuals in varying ways. To that end, here are some annotated links to choral music that move me, sounds exciting and creates energy so I can’t sit still. I will end with a Sacred Harp singing example that reminds me of the power of shared music-making that isn’t about performance, but about sharing the experience of singing together.
What If by Eric Whitacre and arranged by the conductor of this wonderful choir. It comes from an opera so it was originally sung by solo voices. But in a choral setting, I love the unique way the voices are used. It’s almost pointillistic (if that’s a word). I also love the combination of percussion instruments and voices.
Unclouded Day arranged by Shawn Kirchner and sung by the same choir as above. I love folk music and this is a wonderful sacred folk song arranged for choir.
The Battle of Jericho, a traditional spiritual arranged by Moses Hogan. This video is to enjoy an animated, fun conductor and singers who are totally committed to their singing and the message of the song. There may be cleaner, “better” recordings out there of this famous piece, but probably not one more fun.
Ndikhokele Bawo (text based on Psalm 23) is a South African traditional song arranged by Michael Barrett (who is conducting). I’ve listened to this piece often this year since we performed it. But I like how this choir feels it and sings from the heart.
Antioch (I Know That My Redeemer Lives) from The Sacred Harp. This video isn’t about the beauty of the sound. In fact, you need to watch to the end and really watch the leader. In this style of singing, everyone sits in a square and different people lead each song. The singing is not for performance at all … just to sing together. The best sound is in the middle of that square and it is fun to watch this rather reserved man get taken by the experience. FYI – this is a uniquely North American style of folk music that is here sung by a group in Ireland.
Rachelle Berthelsen Davis
Music has been therapy for me for longer than I want to admit. Its power to distract my mind from stress and give me something constructive to focus on is a given in my experience. Certain songs have had the power to lift my spirits and help me re-engage with the world with a more positive spirit and I have a playlist that I’ve often used when my stress level is high and my courage low.
Regularly on my rough-day-therapy playlist are Mahler’s Symphony 8 (especially the opening and closing sections: 1.1 Veni, Creator Spiritus and 2.12 Alles Vergangliche); His Eye Is On The Sparrow by either Whitney Houston or Eclipse 6–each recording is very different; Spark of Creation by Nikki Renee Daniels; Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee by Glad; Brave by Sara Bareilles; This is Me and From Now On from The Greatest Showman; Mendelssohn’s String Octet (the first movement is my favorite); Brahms’ Symphony 3; Mendelssohn’s Symphony 5, Reformation; Bruch’s Romance for Viola and Orchestra; the list goes on. (And if you want angry music, I’ve got that too.)