This sermon on Music and Remembrance is being preached bySt. Philip’s Deacon Tanis at St. Luke’s Anglican this afternoon
SERMON – MUSIC AND REMEMBRANCE
May the words of my mouth and meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock, our Strength and our Redeemer. AMEN
Thank you for inviting me to be part of this service.
Today we are here to worship together, remembering those who gave their lives for
our freedom, remembering those who are presently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, remembering those who work to restore peace or bring comfort in areas of
our world where there is strife and suffering. God bless them.
It is good to gather here together. We have members here from our Winnipeg
Chapter of the Royal Canadian College of Organists. These well trained musicians,
use their gifts – musical skill and leadership skills, to lead our various communities
to enter a time of remembrance as opportunities arise.
- We know that music has the power to heal.
- Music can be a source of comfort and hope to those in times of need.
- Music can be a vehicle to bring solace and consolation in times of strife.
Today we join in voice and heart as we explore and contemplate loss and hope.
Throughout the centuries, composers have been inspired by the twin dramas of
human conflict and the subsequent making of peace. As musicians and
theologians, we find sound theology in the music of some of the most loved
Requiem settings in the canon of Western classical music. For example Faure’s
Requiem is a gentle work but also has the potential power – if not to heal – to
suggest that healing is possible. It touches us to the quick with its beauty and depth
at the same time.
What is the common human experience that connects us to beautiful music?
Bereavement is a common pain to all of humanity. There are many ways to explore
these questions, one of which is through examining music’s function in our lives.
- Why do we listen to or create music that tells of sacrifice, loss and shared moments?
- Why do patriotic songs resonate so deeply?
- How does music bring about a shared sense of unity?
- How does music become a strong carrier of cultural identity?
These are all good questions. As a musician and a deacon I understand that music
provides a thread that passes on cultural identities and values from generation to
- How many of you think of a graduation ceremony when you hear Pomp and Circumstance?
- How many of you think of a wedding when you hear “Here comes the Bride” * not a favourite among the organist community I have heard*
- Where do you place yourself when you hear “Take me Out to the Ballgame” – Goldeye’s game 7th inning stretch?
Music functions in a sense to confirm or legitimate the integrity of the occasion.
The human spirit seems to be habitually drawn to creative artists – musicians,
poets, painters, writers, each are in search for some hint of sense and meaning,
some crumb of comfort, some glimmer of light to make darkness bearable.
The Anthem sung here today “Greater Love Hath no Man” is composed by John
Ireland, an introspective fellow, an impressionist composer. He wrote hymns and
carols and a variety of sacred choral music. You may know “My Song is Love
Unknown”…. A beautiful communion service hymn. This was composed by John
Ireland also. The anthem is often sung in services that commemorate the victims
of war – and is a beautiful choice for us to hear today.
The title is taken from scripture JOHN 15:13
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. JOHN 15:13
It is true “Love is stronger than death”.
The piece has a well-defined structure, passing through a variety of keys, moods,
and tempi. It has a strong melody and in the middle section of the piece there are
short solos for soprano and baritone. When you hear it from this point forward you
will remember this moment. Truly a musical gift.
In the days to come during this Remembrance time moving us towards Nov 11th,
the music we hear, the familiar poetry of “In Flanders Fields”, the sound of the
“Last Post, Lament and Reveille” reflect a ritual of gathering together to
remember the sacrifices of others and to give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy.
The relationship between music and memory is powerful. Music helps because it
provides a rhythm and rhyme which helps to unlock information for us to recall. It
is the structure of the song that helps us to remember it, as well as the melody,
harmonies, solos, and the images the words provoke. I also believe that God
our Creator uses music to help us enter into a time of reflection.
There are some who have in recent years questioned whether or not we should
continue these ceremonies of remembrance. After all, there are few Veterans left
from the World Wars and we are gradually losing to the aging process those
who fought in the Korean War and Vietnam wars for example.
The questions seem to ease when we become aware of the loss of Canadian lives in
countries such as the war in Afghanistan and areas where our Canadian Forces
work to try to bring some sense of order in areas of our world in chaos. We can
find our Canadian Forces members:
- High Arctic,
- Operation REASSURANCE military activities undertaken by the Canadian Armed Forces to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Eastern and Central Europe.
- Operation IMPACT | Iraq
I would like to end with an excerpt from an article written a few short years ago in
the Niagara Falls Review by John Robson. I agree with its sentiment.
“Recently, I heard someone ask how long we had to keep up this Remembrance Day stuff. The short answer is, as long as those in the war graves stay dead and I’m free because of it.”
So today, we thank God our creator for allowing us to be instruments with the
ability to sing and make music. Music and Remembrance – today we embrace
both. Lest we forget.