The healing power of song

A Christian Science perspective. A conductor tells how she directed her orchestra of young musicians to follow this counsel from Leonard Bernstein: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

With the incessant picture of violent scenes erupting throughout the world, we as individuals can feel helpless in knowing how to bring healing to these frightening situations. The recent brutal attack on the American Consulate in Libya and the barbarous killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens, who selflessly devoted himself to the freedom movement in Libya, are cause for each of us to find something to do to counteract violence and terrorism.

Just after hearing the report, I entered an orchestra rehearsal and asked the group of young musicians to support the situation by making every note they played be a prayer for peace; I let them know that their individual prayer through music could make a difference in the world. Leonard Bernstein, one of the greatest musical ambassadors for peace in the 20th century, once said: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” In that hour of musicmaking, all of us united to produce the most beautiful playing possible with an especially deep purpose to uplift the thoughts of all humanity.

During the church service the following Sunday, I further realized the very important healing role of music in our services. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, not only provided in the “Manual of The Mother Church” for music to be played for the prelude, solo, collection, and postlude, but she also expected the entire congregation to join together in the singing of three hymns, songs of praise to God, to be sung in each of the two weekly services. She knew that these songs would “bless the human family” with comfort and give “living waters to the thirsty” (see “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 234).

As if for the first time, I glimpsed that singing hymns together, with the knowledge that hymns – prayers in song – have the power to transform thought with a healing message, reaches far beyond the walls of the church. Hymn singing has the potential to help bring peace to our troubled world.

Our hymn singing is powerful and is effective. In the words of Isaiah: “As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace” (55:10-12).

Just imagine, if in every church service held throughout the world, every person were to raise his or her voice in song and proclaim peace by singing – “more intensely, more beautifully, and more devotedly than ever before.” Let your voice be heard, and with every note you sing, make it a prayer for peace.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

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