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The H3O/Art of Life Blog

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The Soundtrack of Our Lives

By Reverend Ms.Denise Tracy

Presented by Omni-U Virtual University

I have been thinking about the background music, the soundtrack behind the story of a movie screen. You see, I believe life would be better if, every once in a while, someone would break into song, do a little twirl or tap dance in rhythm, as they move through life.I know this is unlikely to happen, so I will have to content myself by going to musicals. I also realized, however, that each one of us has a soundtrack in- or of- our lives.

When I was a little girl, my favorite possession was a record player. I had a collection of red and yellow vinyl 45 RPM records in my bedroom. I'd play these records to accompany my activities. My favorite song was "When You Wish Upon a Star", a tune from the Disney movie "Pinocchio", which I would sing at full voice.  I would color, read  books, and  play with my toys all while the record was playing: “Anything your heart desires will come to you.” 🎶 That song begins the soundtrack of my life.

Is there a song that begins your musical journey? How does your sound track begin? Is there a song that nurtured your childhood spirit? 

When I was a middle school student, I loved to come home to an empty house. I had one whole hour, by myself , before my sisters came home. During that hour, I would put show music on the RCA Victrola stereo in our living room. It had two stereo speakers. I would sing songs from "South Pacific", "The Sound of Music" and "Porgy and Bess". These songs were mixed in with Petula Clark’s "Downtown" and Del Shannon’s "Runaway". So my sound track became a mixture of "Broadway" and  very light rock and roll. 

What music nurtured your young life, sparked your youthful spirit in your early teen years?

As I entered high school, my soundtrack went through a dramatic change. I won a scholarship to take voice and music theory lessons at a University not far from my home. I began to study classical music. Mozart became a favorite, The "Ach, ich Ful"  aria from "The Magic Flute" and my senior recital aria ,the "Queen of the Night" , where the Queen sings of the loss of her beloved daughter, were my favorite pieces of music. My senior paper for music school was an examination of the musical composition of Handel’s "Messiah". I loved the bright trills and gorgeous runs that erupted in these pieces. I could probably still sing every chorus and every soprano and alto aria in "The Messiah".

In your teen years, did your musical soundtrack change? Do you have a song or two that typify(ies) your audio path?

I am asking that  you  actually create, and re-experience, the path of your life as well as the soundtrack of your life. My guess is that you can calli up memories that match your auditory memories. Faces of friends and family will occur as well as images of places. We can each create our own movie to accompany our unique and favorite musical background.

In the church, in which I grew up, my father led the Children’s Chapel. He wrote sermons and selected the songs we sang on Sunday mornings in the Children 's Worship services. The words of the hymns were printed on newsprint and one of us( who could read), used a pointer to direct the singers to the correct words.  "This Little Light of Mine"; "Jesus loves Me"; "Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham" (bosom was a giggle word). My father also added some unusual songs from his favorite singer, Tennessee Ernie Ford. "Just A Closer Walk with Thee" and  "Dem Bones"- which we would love to sing pointing out the hip bone connected to the leg bone etc. up and down the body. However, my Dad was called to the Minister’s office about one of his musical selections.  The song was a popular one at the time…"Sixteen Tons":

“Sixteen Tons and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt, St. Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go… I owe my soul to the company store.”

As we sang that song,our youthful voices were so loud that the church service -a full two floors below- could hear us.  Neither our loud, proud singing nor the song were appreciated.  My father was asked not to have us sing that song.

Music has been the heart and soul of my ministry. At every one of my churches, I have loved working with very fine musicians. Music deepens our openness to the words spoken and creates an emotional and spiritual dimension of the Sunday morning experience. As our voices blend when we sing together, we become a spiritual community. Unitarian  Universalist Pete Seeger used to say, "When people sing together, we are motivated and inspired to change the world.”

Up until this point this sermon is a light exploration of music in our lives. Now, we are going to go much deeper into how this creation of our soundtrack might be used.

I have had a practice in my ministries. When someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness, I meet with them while they are still well enough to talk and remember. We talk about their favorite authors, readings, poets, poems,  prayers, Bible verses, and favorite songs. Then when they become more tired and cannot speak as much because of the progression of the illness, I have a list of favorites that I can read and songs that  i can sing to them.  

Many of us have traditional songs or readings that speak to us. It is a fact that patiehts with Alzheimers  can be brought into or back to the present day by familiar music. Music is the one thing that many people remember much longer than ordinary facts or other memories.

If you grew up in a more traditional Christian home, the  spiritual gospel songs might be, "I Come the Garden Alone". Just a Closer Walk With Thee, Going Home, Going Home. Then Sings my Soul My Savior God To Thee…known as How Great Thou Art.

Are there religious songs that are dear to you? If so write them down. Are there other songs that you know are part of your soundtrack? Take a few seconds and see what comes up for you. You are not confined to writing only during this reading.In fact, you might want to add songs over the next week.

A personal story.

My Dad was given 90 days to live. During this time, I travelled back and forth to Vermont. I stayed with him the last two weeks of his life. We had a game. Whoever work up first would put a favorite CD in the player and crank up the volume. The other would be awakened by beautiful music. We would then cook breakfast together. All day we would talk books, music, movies and life. For a full week, we created the soundtrack  of his life. We talked vacations we had been on. Places we loved. People that we both loved, missed, or that we found difficult. We created a movie of his life while music filled the room. His days became shorter. His energy waned. He spent more and more time in bed. I would put his favorite music on, I would talk to him about memories and, as he listened, he would drift into and out of sleep. It was a tender time.

The last night of his life, I knew the end was coming. The hospice nurse did not arrive. My sister didn't come either. So I thought, I want to give him a going out of this world that will be beautiful. Over the last few days, my Dad’s favorite CD had become a CD called" Sacred Arias" by Renee Fleming. My Dad and I had listened to all the songs on this CD many times. As his breathing became more shallow, I realized he was scared. So, I put that sing on the CD player which was on the table to his right. I climbed into bed, put my arms around him and as each song played I sang into his left ear. Renee Fleming was singing into his right ear, I was singing into his left. I felt his breathing decrease and I looked deeply into his eyes as I sang. As Leonard Bernstein’s “Simple Song” from his Mass commissioned by Jackie Kennedy, for her husband Jack…”Sing me a simple song, sing all my life long,” with these words my Father left this world. I looked into his eyes as he left this dimension. I sang him out of this life. It is believed that hearing is the last of our senses to go. I wanted my Father to leave this world on the wings of music and he did.

I felt that I had been living and training for this moment. All the people that I had ministered to, all I had been through, prepared me to be with my Father and to give him a good death.

What are the elements that might call us back for the shores of memory loss? What is the music that will heal our spirit and relax us into the present?  What is the Soundtrack of your life that will enable you to recreate the movie of your life with your most precious memories. More importantly, who know this and who knows you well enough to be there with you and help you?

Who would you have a conversation with about this? It needs to be more than one person. Are there specific songs you love and that would nourish your spirit?  Take a few moments to begin your sound track. Add to your "Playlist" at your leisure.

I hope this week as you move through your life, you will consider adding to your store of memories and music and initiate a conversation about both the movie and the soundtrack of your life. Perhaps, just perhaps, this sermon will last a few days…or more…

Amen, Shalom and Blessed Be.   


"When You Wish Upon a Star " Jiminy  Cricket 

"Happy Talk" from South Pacific 

*"My Favorite  Things" by John Coltrane

*"I Loves You Porgy" by Nina Simone 

"Ach, ich Fuhl's",  Louise Alder ( Mozart)

"Queen of the Night" ,Diana Damrau ( Mozart)

*Handel's  Messaiah for Our Tme" GBH

" Magic Flute" Theme 1 ( Mozart

*" This Little Light of Mine " by Odetta

" Just a Closer Walk With Thee " by Tennessee Ernie Ford 

"Sixteen Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford 

"Downtown " by Petula Clark

Jesus Loves Me  by The Gaither Vocal Band

"Rock-a My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham " by 

Alex Boye and The Tabernacle  Choir 

*"How Great Thou Art " by StickYard

*"Going Home" by Paul Robeson

*"I Come to the Garden Alone " by Mahalia Jackson 

 Bernstein : Simple Song

by Renee Fleming 

*"Just A Closer Walk with Thee " Mahalia Jackson 

*Loves Me Like a Rock"

( Paul Simon Tribute) by Billy Porter with Take 6

*"Loves Me Like a Rock" by Dixie Hummingbirds

Recommended Listening indicated above by *

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