We are convinced of the power of music to get to places otherwise inaccessible for people with dementia. During the lockdowns we were uplifted by sessions on zoom which brought life and smiles to us through songs and stories we could join in with – tunes from our shared pasts, lodged safe and close to our emotional centres. Smiles and tears come close together.
I have been taken up with the story of the favourite hymn: ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’. It came to me recently via a version sung by Aretha Franklin www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9rrtgwRsfk
The hymn was first a poem written by Joseph Medlicott Scrivens. He wrote it as a comfort to himself and his mother at the time that they were separated – she having stayed in Ireland, he having taken off for Canada soon after the death of his first intended wife a few days before their planned marriage. The poem was written a little while after the death of his second intended wife who also and tragically died by drowning shortly before they were due to be married.
Music was added some time later by Charles Crozart Converse. This is a short hymn, with a repeated refrain: ‘Take it to the Lord in prayer’. It has been translated into many languages and is widely received as a favourite to be sung by children and grown-ups as company to everyday work as much as for formal worship.
There is much to be gained from its references to theological issues which might otherwise be too complicated for us to look at. God and Jesus as ‘a friend’ is affirmed. This sinks in deep and wakes afresh whenever we need it.
Learning and sharing ideas through music was the way for John Wesley with the hymns of his brother Charles. Sankey and Moody fuelled the revival movement with their music hall style hymns. The protest songs of the 1960s gave a generation their voice and philosophy.
We have many troubles which affect us personally and communally.
After a night of struggle, I wake to find I have been taken over by Doris Day: Doris Day - Que Sera Sera
Thank you for the words and music.