In Times of Trouble
When the sirens in Tel Aviv, Israel, wailed shortly before 7 o’clock one evening in February 1991, maestro Zubin Mehta was conducting the Israeli Philharmonic with renowned violinist Isaac Stern at the Jerusalem Theater.
Another scud missile attack from Iraq, one of many during the first Gulf war, was underway.
The audience was asked to don gas masks and remain seated. The orchestra left the stage, but after a few moments, Stern returned and played alone — the Sarabande from Johann Sebastian Bach’s D minor Partita for solo violin — for the audience. When the all-clear was given, the orchestra returned and the concert resumed.
It was a moment of artistry in the midst of anxiety and fear. A moment of grace at a time when grace was needed. A moment to be reminded that even though there was danger all around, there was also beauty to lift spirits, calm nerves, and transport souls to a better place if only for a few minutes. But enough to make a difference.
“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Music can soothe our worries, tame our fears, and offer us inspiration. In times of trouble, especially, music can be the balm that quiets our anxieties and helps to pierce the darkness of the frightening moments of our lives.
In this time of global trouble, of anxiety, darkness, and fright, what is a balm for your spirit and soul? What helps you to have your fears quieted, darkness turned into light?
For a number of years, the non-profit organization Sing For Hope has, among other programs, placed hundreds of pianos all over New York City for several weeks in summer. Public spaces, parks, and sidewalks have been graced by the pianos. During those weeks, anyone, at any time, can sit down to play them, bringing melodies and harmonies into the kinetic energy, blaring horns, and human cacophony of a city that never sleeps.
To blunt the city’s harsher edges. To slow themselves and listeners down. To transport both musicians and their audiences alike to more beautiful places, away from their everyday stresses.
Sing for Hope’s founders explain their objectives, “What we are trying to do at Sing For Hope is give people opportunities to connect with people.”
These pianos are said to be “for the eyes, ears, even the soul”. The aim is to heal with sound — one note at a time.
Magical moments of calm and transporting others from life’s relentless pressures.
“Everyone deserves to have a positive, powerful, emotional music experience,” says Colin Huggins, of New York City, who became somewhat of a fixture in Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park a few years ago. Four times a week, Huggins, a classically-trained pianist, would push an 800-pound baby grand piano down the street to the iconic gathering spot in Washington Square Park.
And then he would play the piano for the thousands of New Yorkers and tourists who would come through the park while he was there. His life goal, he offered, is to bring music — and a few tears — to the masses.
When we are working together in our office, we often have music playing quietly in the background. From mid-November through the beginning of the new year, it’s Christmas music, which is beloved by both of us. Some days when we need extra spiritual inspiration, it’s hymns and sacred songs. In other times the music is classical, most of it hundreds of years old. Or it’s some of our favorite classic pop artists: U2, Billy Joel, Elton John, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles — “Let it Be,” “Bridge over Troubled Water,” “The Piano Man,” “Your Song,” “40.” All of them bring light to our hearts, joy to our spirits.
What is some of your favorite music? Send us a message – firstname.lastname@example.org. Share with us what inspires and uplifts you in in times of trouble.
What other inspirations — art work, movies, books, plays, sacred texts, places, scenes, experiences — help you through your most anxious days? We’d love to learn about them, too. We’ll share them so that others might find their inspiration in them.
Because, we’re all in this together.
And we all need to be transported to places that remind us of beauty, goodness, wonder, grace, and hope.
Featured photo from Carmelo de los Santos on YouTube