Choir Notes

Music of the Heart
From Music and The Spoken Word
Delivered By: Lloyd D. Newell • Program 4106

Sometimes the most important work we do is never attributed to us, and often it is our anonymous efforts that do the most good. So it was for the unknown authors of folk music. Passed down by oral tradition, their musical treasures ring with authenticity and passion. In many cases, both authorship and origin have been lost to the ages; yet such anonymous songs often have the greatest appeal.

Perhaps because they are not tied to a specific time or person, folk songs express thoughts and feelings that transcend generations, enriching lives for centuries.

One type of folk music is the venerable folk hymn, which was made up of simple, familiar tunes that “everybody could sing and . . . words that spoke from the heart . . . in the language of the common man.”1 People love this traditional music of the heart because it resounds with their culture, their beliefs, and the feelings they hold most dear.

One scholar has observed that these unknown composers of the past considered their “noble musical heritage” to be “their most loved and treasured possession,” which they reverently laid “on the altar of their worship.” “There is a strong probability,” he says, “that this practice has continued unbroken for at least thirteen centuries.”2

We can keep that chain of heartfelt contributions unbroken in our own day. We may not be musicians—we may not even be able to carry much of a tune—but we all have contributions to make. Whether or not we get credit for those offerings is not so important as the fact that we give our best and share our hearts with others.

1 George Pullen Jackson, ed., Spiritual Folk-Songs of Early America (1975), 6.
2 John Powell, in Spiritual Folk-Songs of Early America, vii.

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