By Marilyn Delk
Much bleak reality faces humankind daily, a truism now being confirmed hourly before our very eyes by the horrible events occurring in Ukraine. As we watch our screens, horrifying disaster follows abounding catastrophe, and belief in the future of a civilization that continues evolving to achieve universal amity and wisdom withers, resulting in gloom descending upon the human soul. And then, Ukrainians make music!
Throughout the weeks of this continuing tragedy, while watching events unfold from the comfort of my cozy couch, just as I begin to think I can’t take any more, one or more citizen of Ukraine will appear on-screen singing or playing music —almost instantly lifting my spirits and restoring hope for the future. The music can be astoundingly beautiful or affectingly poignant, sung by a sweet innocent child or performed by a group of professional musicians who carried their instruments with them when seeking shelter from the destruction around them, but the abounding wonder is in the joy achieved in the act of making music and the corresponding response by those who hear.
Although music preferences are unique to each person, music in some form has been proven to be a healing force among humans and is even said to “calm the savage beast.” Even though that quote is wrong, the original actually stating “Music has charms to sooth the savage breast, to soften rocks or bend the mighty oak,” the statement remains powerful, and through the ages has been reinforced in myriad ways, including the very real wonders evoked by music therapists as they work to calm spirits and heal souls.
Our deepest emotions and most resilient memories are often linked to music; studies have shown that simply thinking back to the music of your youth, regardless of what the musical genre might be, can brighten your mood and reinvigorate your spirit. Experts say that performing music can be even more powerful than listening and recommend singing in the shower or whistling as you work to lift your spirits. This advice is aptly, bravely, and poetically stated in the words of the old hymn “How Can I Keep From Singing:”
“My life goes on in endless song above earth’s lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife I hear its music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing!
When tyrants tremble in their fear and hear their death knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near
How can I keep from singing?
In prison cell and dungeon vile our thoughts to them are winging
When friends by shame are undefiled
How can I keep from singing?”
The Mayo Clinic issued advice for dealing with the isolation and fear engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic, recommending music as a coping tool, reminding us that music has always been a refuge for people during the most difficult times, a safe haven giving respite from the current storm. All of this information confirms my firm belief that music enriches minds, bodies, and souls, a belief being upheld daily by brave, resilient Ukrainians transcending their current reality with music to inspire us all.
Marilyn Delk is the former executive director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.