The first prayer of my day is to thank God that I’m alive to hear the beautiful carillon of birdsong that tumbles through the dawn. What a joy it is to hear this canticle of creation. It’s a suburban concerto that sets me up with gladness to get on with the day that lies unscripted ahead of me. My heart is lifted by nature’s soundtrack, the liquid warbling of greeting as soft sabres of light graze the distant hills. Birdsong was the first music of the earth.
My own first experience of music arrived with the lullabies my mother sang. They soothed and smoothed. The first song I properly remember is ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’. When I was eight, I was taken to see The Sound of Music and learned all the songs by heart. The first single I bought was Carole King’s ‘It Might as Well Rain until September’, and my first album was Neil Sedaka’s Greatest Hits. My first boyfriend gave me the Elvis Now album, and ‘If I Can Dream’ still makes me shiver each time I hear it. I loved The Seekers with Georgie Girl and was a Beatles, not a Stones, girl.
JOY OF MUSIC
What a joy it is to have music in our lives. As has been said often, music is a universal language beyond words, a place where we connect in a transcendent way to other human beings, other times and places. Music can make us weep with the recognition of beauty or sorrow and can lift us up in ways that unify and harmonise our feelings of oneness.
Music is companionship and solace. It can heal. As Robert Browning said, ‘Who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once’.
At school I was in the choir and played Casilda in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers. I sang at Mass, weddings, parties, anything. I was a reliable chorus member in South Pacific, a doo-wopping Fabulous K-TEL Sister in a long-ago law revue, and had some show-stopping moments in the Tin Alley Players at Melbourne University. Later I would sing in a supper band on the Isle of Man and do some guest numbers with the house band on a holiday camp in Dorset.
These days, I sing up at Mass, although I can no longer reach the high notes. ‘Here I am Lord’ is the hymn that almost makes me cry.
Writing this article has given me hours of enjoyment because I’ve gone back to listen to favourite songs – and found new ones; that B-side song that is a gem, that song from a musical that is heart-wrenching, ‘If Ever I Should Leave You’ (Camelot) and ‘Where is love?’ (Oliver). I love Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘Summertime’, George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and the waterfall of notes in acapella. I also think Mama Cass hits exactly the right note with her song, ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music’, because sometimes we must follow the beat of a different drum.
Music is a gift that can soothe and calm. It can bring us to rapture and prayer, make us feel like dancing, make us want to sing exultantly, make us feel happy, make us feel sad, remind us that beyond words the music never fades. It can transform our days with the burst of a perfect pop song or the Hallelujah Chorus, a bit of boogie-woogie or the beauty of Bach. So, in grateful thanks for the playlists in our lives, we ‘Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music’ – Psalm 98:4
Ann Rennie is a Melbourne writer, teacher and former REC. She believes in the Good News and the power of words to change the world.