Power of music

We have seen this last week how music at large scale public events can have a power of giving expression to people's feelings, when there is often an inability to put anything into words.   

I am not usually a fan of the music of the Canadian artist Justin Bieber, but he did say something quite profound at this weekend's gig in Manchester, at the end of a set, where you usually hear remarks of a different nature: "God is good in the midst of the darkness," something which might ordinarily be expected to come from a priest and not a musical artist.  

Every year at Remembrancetide in communities throughout Oxfordshire, familiar tunes like Nimrod, O Valiant Hearts and especially The Last Post are played by community and military bands, to honour our war dead, in the heart of the communities from which they came. 

But music can also have just such a profound effect throughout the year, at smaller scale events. At a friend's funeral, a few years ago at Oxford Crematorium, there was a reading from the book of Ecclesiastes "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die."  It was followed by the remarkable and yet familiar keyboard sounds of the 1992 REM song Everybody Hurts, just as the sun came out and drops of rain came down upon those of us stood outside, several rows deep, in a sort of huddle of souls outside the chapel, attendance being much larger than expected.  

A sublime moment and from then on, that particular song has been indelibly associated for me with that time and with that person wherever I hear it.  Occasionally these days, when I am driving my taxi there is one of those magical moments when it turns up randomly on the radio. 

In the years before taxi driving, when I lived with and cared for my father, while working from home, I had this habit of playing music before going out.  One of the places I frequented was a beautiful cabaret evening called The Blue Hours, hosted by the artist Barb Jungr at New Greenham Arts, on the former airbase near Newbury.    

Before going there, I never was much of a fan of the singing of Bob Dylan, which was unfortunate because I learned through the entirely different artistic interpretation of Barb Jungr, that his lyrics are quite profound.  And it was her rendition of Forever Young, which was randomly playing as my Dad's coffin was carried out of the house we had both shared for more than twenty years.  

One of those lyrics has become something of a personal mission statement, in my work as a taxi driver: "May you always do for others" though the latter part of the lyric "and let others do for you" is something I should let happen more often than I do.

As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 07 June 2017

Changed main image 16 June 2017

  1. British Broadcasting Corporation, One Love Manchester,  2:18:20, 04 June 2017, as consulted 06 June 2017
  2. Ecclesiastes 3