This past weekend, as we were heading to the opening concert of the Galveston Symphony Orchestra, I told me wife that I just hadn’t come up with any ideas for this week’s column. I had been engrossed in writing a new curriculum for an online integrative medicine fellowship and my thoughts had been focused there.
Once we got into The Grand 1894 Opera House though, I felt suddenly inspired. The all-volunteer orchestra led by the effervescent and elegant Trond Saeverud put together a performance that was truly healing. Free tickets were available for Hurricane Harvey survivors who needed a break from mucking and rebuilding. I do not know exactly how many folks took that wonderful opportunity, but it was a generous gesture by the GSO board.
The first piece, “Galveston Survives,” was written by longtime Galveston resident, the late Izola Collins. To set the stage, GSO Board President Dr. Elizabeth “Bets” Anderson reflected on how Izola had lived her life in consonance with biblical principles from Philippians 4:8: True, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtue. Her composition was a musical story of Galveston and how it survives through storms of nature, politics, religion, and personal lives, again and again and over again. The swelling and receding melodies mirrored the tides of time and Gulf of Mexico. They served as a healing balm and poignant reminder of the strength of the human spirit.
This was followed by a brilliant performance by solo cellist Brinton Smith and the orchestra of Antonin Dvorák’s Cello Concerto, Op. 104. This was a buoyant piece that literally made the room vibrate with energy and sound beautifully crafted by the cellist and orchestra. What talented musicians can do is move us from our daily consciousness into a realm of light, of mathematics, of sound, and harmony to transport our emotions to a different space. Within the space of a few dozen minutes, musical refrains entrain and en-trance our emotions like few other human experiences can do.
Dvorák who was born in Bohemia, directed New York’s National Conservatory of Music. Though he died in 1904, he made this prediction: “I am now satisfied that the future music of this country must be founded upon what are called African-American melodies. This must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States.” Izola Collins further was quoted as saying, “The classical music of America is the spiritual.” I would just say, black music matters!
To continue the healing journey, the concert ended with the delightful young prodigy and musical genius, Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 “Italian” an irrepressible musical impression of his days in Italy. Filled with the light and joy of that sunny country which he was visiting from his native Germany, the music captured the exuberance of youth in the Italian spring. You just walked away smiling.
Such are a few examples of how music can heal. Of course there are many kinds of music, all of which have potential to reach within the diversity of human souls and tastes. So when you are down and troubled, and you need a helping hand, reach out for some music to soothe your being.