What Am I Going To Do When I Grow Up?

Life as Song

Posted on: January 28, 2009

What is the power of music?  Does it change your mood or frame of reference when you listen to an upbeat song or a old favorite?

What if song is not only external but also internal? How might our thoughts be like lyrics in a song with a specific refrain?

How might you choose to express your voice in ways that better serve you?


2 Responses to "Life as Song"

This one has been special to me since high school and I’m excited to share it. The poem is by Jane Griner. The musical setting – composed by David Gawthrop, Jane’s husband – is a staple in choral literature. As my “website”, I’ve included a link to an MP3 of the best performance I could find (the Willamette University Chamber Choir). You probably don’t want to listen to it with the volume all the way up, because it’s full of scratches that can be hard on the ears. Anyway, here’s the poem:

Jane Griner

In my heart’s sequestered chambers lie truths striped of poet’s gloss.
Words alone are vain and vacant and my heart is mute.
In response to aching silence memory summons half-heard voices,
And my soul finds primal eloquence and wraps me in song:

If you would comfort me, sing me a lullaby.
If you would win my heart, sing me a love song.
If you would mourn me and bring me to God,
sing me a requiem, sing me to heaven.

Touch in me all love and passion, pain and pleasure, grief and comfort;
Sing me a lullaby, a love song, a requiem.
Love me, comfort me, bring me to God:
Sing me a love song, sing me to heaven.

I’ve found this song most effective when the singers emote with honesty, not drama. When they sing simply, not remarkably, letting the words speak for themselves. Drama and virtuosity can be distracting, even annoying. I hate listening to choirs full of swollen-headed grad students. Eek. It sounds like a barnyard. Too much wobbly vibrato. Loud high notes. Loud everything. Everyone singing on his or her own pitch. You’re lucky if you understand one word. Maybe life is the same way: when a person lets her melody ring for itself, without trying to make it the loudest, the fanciest, the richest, the best…it may not be beautiful, but it’s breathtaking.

Oops…in the first line of the poem, “striped” should be “stripped”. To hear the recording, click my name next to my first comment. 🙂

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Evelyn Van Til

Practicing Purpose with Passion!

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