The Gift of Mu­sic

Wait­ing for us to en­gage with it, to brighten our spir­its or touch us deeply

Times of the Islands - - Departments - Pian­ist, in­struc­tor and mu­si­col­o­gist Erik En­twistle re­ceived an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in mu­sic from Dart­mouth Col­lege. He earned a post-grad­u­ate de­gree in pi­ano per­for­mance at Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity in St. Louis. He earned his doc­tor­ate in mu­si­col­ogy at the

One of the pieces per­formed this spring by the BIG ARTS Com­mu­nity Cho­rus on Sani­bel is ti­tled “The Gift of Mu­sic,” with words and mu­sic by John Rut­ter. Its lyrics are un­usual in that they ad­dress the au­di­ence di­rectly, and cul­mi­nate with a sim­ple wish: “May your soul have the gift of mu­sic.” It’s a beau­ti­ful phrase that speaks to a nearly univer­sal as­pect of hu­man ex­is­tence, but also one that, nat­u­rally, man­i­fests it­self dif­fer­ently in in­di­vid­ual lives.

View­ing mu­sic as a gift en­cour­ages us to ap­pre­ci­ate it more and take it less for granted. Do­ing so re­minds us how for­tu­nate we are that per­form­ers and com­posers have cre­ated such a wealth of mu­si­cal works over the cen­turies for us to en­joy. This mu­sic waits for us to en­gage—or re-en­gage—with it, per­haps to brighten our spir­its or touch us deeply.

By de­scrib­ing one’s soul as pos­sess­ing the gift of mu­sic, Rut­ter’s lyrics sug­gest a pro­found con­nec­tion be­tween mu­sic and the whole per­son. While as lis­ten­ers we can be the re­cip­i­ents of a great va­ri­ety of mu­si­cal works, the next step af­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion comes par­tic­i­pa­tion—singing in a choir, study­ing an in­stru­ment, play­ing in a band or even cre­at­ing your own mu­sic.

These are all po­ten­tial gifts to our­selves that will pro­vide last­ing re­wards, eas­ily jus­ti­fy­ing the dis­ci­pline and com­mit­ment they re­quire. And as we our­selves par­tic­i­pate in cre­at­ing mu­sic, mu­sic be­comes a gift we can then give to oth­ers. When think­ing of the idea of mu­sic as a gift, our chil­dren also come to mind. Al­though we might won­der at prodi­gies who seem to be nat­u­rally

born with the gift of mu­sic (such as Mozart and Men­delssohn), sim­ply nur­tur­ing an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for mu­sic through ex­po­sure be­gin­ning at a young age will set the stage for fu­ture mu­si­cal en­deav­ors and ac­tiv­i­ties for any child, whether or not he or she is ap­par­ently “gifted.” As par­ents, guardians and teach­ers, we are in a po­si­tion to cul­ti­vate a love of mu­sic in our young ones, and that is a gift that may well last a life­time.

Rut­ter’s “The Gift of Mu­sic,” how­ever, is not fo­cused on chil­dren, but rather was ded­i­cated to a friend of the com­poser on the oc­ca­sion of her 80th birth­day. The rest of the lyrics aptly con­trast the gift of mu­sic with more ephemeral as­pects of life, as the fol­low­ing ex­cerpt il­lus­trates:

So, when con­tem­plat­ing all that mu­sic has to of­fer, it is grat­i­fy­ing to know that yes, we can all have the gift of mu­sic. And how much bet­ter is the fact that we can share that gift!

“Would you wish for youth and beauty, or wealth to make a show? Or power and po­si­tion and strength? Oh no: For your youth it will van­ish, and beauty will fade, And your wealth and po­si­tion are all a pass­ing pa­rade. May your soul have the gift of mu­sic ... Ev­ery day that you spend with mu­sic Is the best day, the best new day of the year.”

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