I believe song has power — strength that draws people together and which touches the heart. Song can break people from their busy, mundane life. It can express what’s inside us in a language common to all.
When I was eight-years-old, my Grandma, then 93 years of age, was very near death. One afternoon she suddenly called our whole family to her bedside. As we stood there singing to her, we sent word around to friends and fellow church members that Grandma was nearing the end. Several hundred came and gathered in and around her home to sing. It was amazing how so many people dropped what they were doing to sing songs of faith and hope in her final and difficult hours.
The spirit in which a song is sung can have a tremendous effect. The power and feeling that was expressed during the Civil Rights Movement was vital to Blacks and their fight for freedom. How else could they keep marching amidst so much strife and harassment? Their enthusiasm and determination to sing, no matter what obstacles were placed before them, enabled them to express and live out their convictions.
The power of song can actually tear down “walls.” In 2001 a teacher friend of mine was touring Ireland with a choir of students, “Kids for Peace.” One day they performed at a Catholic church. Afterwards they walked directly over to a Protestant church, surrounded by razor wire. As they reached the church they were met by a group of extremely sullen parishioners who were very suspicious of them. Why had they just come from a Catholic church to now meet in their church to pray?
As tensions mounted my friend quietly started playing his guitar. Slowly his students began singing: “My Peace I Give unto You.” The tension completely dissipated and in a matter of minutes they were allowed to come inside the church. The “wall” before them was removed.
I believe in song. Song’s power is genuine and simple. To realize this, one only has to sing around a campfire at night, under God’s heavens. Song has a uniting strength, a universal force like nothing else. It speaks to all nations, to every heart, and has the power to change them both.