Choir Notes

Music Gives Voice to Hearts and Souls

From Music and the Spoken Word
Delivered By: Lloyd D. Newell • Program 4349

Music is inseparable from life. Its influence is felt both in our personal lives and in the course of history—perhaps most powerfully in the way it has given voice to noble causes throughout the ages. Never was this more evident than during the civil rights movement of decades past. Martin Luther King Jr. said of that era’s "freedom songs,” "I think they keep alive a faith, a radiant hope, in the future, particularly in our most trying hours.”1
Martin Luther King loved music; his messages vibrated with stanzas of sacred songs, from "Precious Lord, Take My Hand” to "Amazing Grace” to the "Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah.
When they weren’t being quoted in speeches, these hymns, spirituals, and other folk songs were being sung at rallies and gatherings—the historic march on Washington in 1963, Martin Luther King’s funeral in 1968, and many others. On one occasion, at the conclusion of a meeting at his home, King stood with his colleagues as they sang, "There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole.” It was one of his favorites, for the words soothed his soul:
Sometimes I feel discouraged
And think my work’s in vain,

But then the Holy Spirit

Revives my soul again.2
Martin Luther King’s work, thankfully, was not in vain. And we owe at least part of his success to the beautiful music that inspired, encouraged, and unified those who devoted their lives to that work—the work of freedom and liberty.
And though our personal needs and causes may seem less lofty, music can do the same for us. Whether we need comfort and peace, encouragement, or a reminder of God’s love, music can—like nothing else—revive our soul and give voice to the yearning of our heart.

1 In "Songs and the Civil Rights Movement,” The Martin Luther King, Jr., Encyclopedia, http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_songs_and_the_civil_rights_movement.
2 See Adelle M. Banks, "Favorite Songs Carried MLK Through Troubled Times,” Huffington Post, Jan. 11, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/11/mlk-favorite-songs_n_1200393.html

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