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Musical Memories

Music fills an important aspect in our lives. Music can set the mood or reinforce the drama in one’s life.

Archbishop Listecki


Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
 

 

Music fills an important aspect in our lives. Music can set the mood or reinforce the drama in one’s life. We don’t often stop and acknowledge its role in most productions, with the obvious exception of musicals. Recently, I was listening to an old-time radio production of Sherlock Holmes mysteries with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Although other actors have played these roles, these two actors have embedded themselves in my mind, and in the hearts of the American public, as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

I couldn’t help but notice, during the presentation of the mystery, how the organ played an important role by building the tension or reinforcing shock, levity or bewilderment. As you read this, the organ would play “ta-da!”

As a priest, I remember going into a movie theater that was showing a recent release of Jurassic Park. My fellow classmate, Fr. Bill Eddy, and I worked together on a summer pastoral project. It was a hot summer, and the air conditioning in the rectory was out. The movie theater provided some cool relief. The surprise was the great “boy-meets-dinosaur” production that the movie provided, with a fantastic musical score. Composer John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T., Jaws and Schindler’s List) elevated the audience with the score created for the movie. There was a power and majesty that was expressed in the music, which foretold the encounter that was about to happen.

In the Disney production of Fantasia, Mickey Mouse is the wizard’s apprentice. The powerful wand in the hands of a novice creates chaos. Of course, Mickey couldn’t control the power, and the broomstick started multiplying – creating this freighting procession of broomsticks marching to the music of Leopold Stokowski’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. This haunting score still evokes fear in my senses whenever I hear it. I’m waiting for the brooms to begin to march without control.

The Church has certainly gone through its share of musical presentations over the last 50-60 years. Imagine one week, organ music with Gregorian chant, the high point of the golden era of music, and the next week, guitars playing Ray Repp songs. Actually, that era stared to change within 5-to-10 years after the introduction of guitar music. More developed, and sophisticated guitar music was introduced by the likes of the St. Louis Jesuits.

A funny incident happened when I was with about 40 bishops waiting to process in a ceremony. The organist was completing a beautiful piece. I jokingly said, “Not like our day,” and I started singing, “Here we are altogether, as we sing our song joyfully.” Surprisingly, they all started to sing with me. That period, although simplistic, has never been given its proper burial. So, with the encouragement of Mr. Matt Linn (who has some of these lyrics memorized), I have decided to have a Retro Night (retro nights are in) at the Cousins Center on May 4, so we can put that period to rest. We’ll have some fun, eat, sing some songs and remember a time past – when three chords could accompany a thousand religious musical songs.

Think about what music you might want as background for your day, or the musical theme announcing the direction of your life. Have you thought of the music you might want at your funeral? Pick it now so that the heavenly choir can practice. You’ll make it –especially if you follow Christ’s command to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Note: This blog originally appeared as the January 23, 2018 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.

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