Listen to the Music
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
The motions of his spirit are dull as night…
Let no such man be trusted.
Mark the music.
(Merchant of Venice, Act 5, Sc 1)
The words are from Shakespeare, but they can also apply to an Inaugration that was packed with soul-lifting music that represented the wide diversity of our nation and created a spectacular contrast to the near total absence of music or the arts in the White House over the past four years.
Tuesday evening there was “Amazing Grace” and Cohen’s “Hallelujah” beside the Reflecting Pool in a moving remembrance of the 400,000 people who have died with COVID-19.
The Inauguration ceremony opened with Lady Gaga singing what turned out to be the most inspiriting rendition of the National Anthem that I can remember. (In a dress we will not soon forget!) She was followed by Jennifer Lopez declaring “This Land Was Made for You and Me,” and concluded with Garth Brooks leading us all us “Amazing Grace.”
The day ended with the “Celebrating America” event at the Lincoln Memorial that included everyone from Yo Yo Ma (again “Amazing Grace”) to Bruce Springsteen with three former Presidents affirming the strength of our democracy in the peaceful transfer of power before Katy Perry lit up with night with a spectacular fireworks display.
Music isn’t everything. Every style of music isn’t the right music for every one of us. Music cannot resolve the issues before us. The President named them: “a once-in-a-century virus…Millions of jobs have been lost…Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed…A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making…A cry for survival comes from the planet itself…And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.”
But what Shakespeare called “the sweet power of music” can warm our hearts, enliven our spirits, and point toward the abiding hope that we can become “a more perfect union.” Lincoln spoke of that kind of power in the conclusion of his First Inaugural Address.
Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
The words Father Leo O’Donovan III offered in the Invocation at the Inauguration are well worth reading and praying. He concluded with these words:
Be with us, Holy Mystery of Love, as we dream together.
Help us under our new president to reconcile the people of our land, restore our dream, and invest it with peace and justice and the joy that is the overflow of love.
To the glory of your name forever. Amen.
Mark the music!