This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.
Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Being introverted by nature, I couldn’t help but feel a bit lost as I sat in the unfamiliar room surrounded by strangers all chatting and laughing. For almost a year I had been suffering from severe depression and anxiety with little relief. I asked someone about music and they indicated an old milk carton holding black folders. They also pointed me in the direction of the clarinet section. I took the available seat and breathed deeply to calm my nerves.
I opened the case and brushed my fingers lightly over the silver keys and ebony wood. The wooden Buffet Clarinet was a thing of beauty. I rubbed grease on the corks, assembled the pieces and fixed the reed into place. Warm air filled the instrument as I quietly ran through a chromatic scale and a series of regular scales. I hoped no one would hear me… I was so rusty.
My heart throbbed wildly. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” I thought to myself. After I had told the principal clarinet that this was my first time playing in 13 years, he replied, “Maybe you should try band first, it’s a better way to ease back into music because there are more clarinets. In orchestra there are only one to two of us.” I nodded in agreement and said that we’d see how it went.
Song after song, I fumbled my way through the music, thoroughly enjoying the rich sounds that swelled around me. For being a humble community orchestra in a nowhere desert town, there was an abundance of talented musicians. I concentrated with intensity on the notes and fingerings. It was amazing how much muscle memory remained from my early musical training.
3 hours later, I was exhausted, but oddly elated. At the end of the rehearsal the principal clarinetist turned to me and said, “Great job!” I had forgotten, for 3 beautiful hours, all the cares that had been oppressing me for months.
I am thankful for music. I enjoy playing music, listening to music and singing music. I love harmonizing. I love the poetry. I love the buzz of a good chord. I am thankful for musicians and conductors who volunteer hours of time to bring music to their communities.
I quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer earlier. He was an accomplished musician. His talent was so great that his parents and music instructor had hoped he would pursue it as a career, but he did not. He felt a stronger pull towards teaching the gospel. Music never ceased to be a joy and release to him.
Albert Einstein is primarily known for his science, but he was also a violinist. He began playing at the age of 4. As he became an adult and scientist, he continued playing and did not stop until his doctor told him that he could not continue in 1950. Hans Albert Einstein recalled, “Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music. That would usually resolve all his difficulties.”
Shepherd. Warrior. King. David was a man who loved music. How did he first come into contact with royalty? He played for the king (Saul) to soothe his nerves. He wrote music prolifically: Songs of praise. Songs of despair. Songs of hope. I suspect—though I have no way of knowing—that the Psalms are some of the most quoted scriptures (particularly Psalm 23).
God is the original Maestro. He doesn’t just conduct music or perform music. He invented it. What do massage therapists play for their patients? They play a recording of the gentle rhythm of ocean waves, the light babble of mountain streams and the whisper of the wind through the trees. Music abounds in the natural world. The humpback whales sing and harmonize within the depths of the ocean. The birds warble their own unique songs of praise. Thunder rumbles like a timpani to signal a storm. Wind whistles through the trees. Even the stars possess a song, though we cannot hear it. The earth resonates with overtures of praise for the Creator.
Give thanks for music and the opportunity to lift up our hearts in praise to our God.
I want to conclude this little post with a song that has been near and dear to my heart for many years. When I was 5, my mother taught me “This is My Father’s World.” I remember sitting on the living room floor, playing with my magnet letters and singing it to myself. It was the first hymn that I learned and one that I still love to sing. It eloquently conveys my sentiments about God’s gift of music.
This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.
~Maltbie D. Babcock