Wednesday, November 11, 2009
In honor of Veterans' Day, I wanted to mention some of the music of our soldiers. Growing up, I spent every Memorial Day playing in the band at the cemeteries of my hometown. Since I played trumpet, I was often called upon as well to play taps at military funerals. While I don't come from what I would consider a military family, I know that both of my grandfathers served our country, and one of the most moving aspects of the funeral of my one grandfather was the presentation of the flag to my grandmother in recognition of his service.
To be reductionist about military music, in general it comes in two varieties: marches and hymns. Of course, even the hymns can be a bit triumphalist for comfort sometimes (sing the opening few lines of the Marine Hymn and you'll see what I mean). The music that I find so powerful and relevant are the hymns of comfort and solace, the hymns of prayers for safety and a quick end to war.
My favorite (and probably the best known) in that category is the "Navy Hymn," known to us as "Eternal Father, Strong to Save." It was sung at the funeral of FDR and played at JFK's funeral procession as well. It's a popular funeral hymn, and I think that stems from the powerful symbol of God as Father, a strong protector and a comforter. This version of verse 4 epitomizes that in its text:
O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoever we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
The triune God of love and power is our protector whom we thank with hymns of praise. That's a succinct message of what the Christian faith means to many of us. To hear a midi version of this hymn and to read more verses (including some more specifically to the military) you can click here.
In closing, thanks to everyone, everywhere who serves our nation. I'd like to offer special thanks to my National Guardsman brother-in-law and prayers for everyone serving overseas. Please feel free to add your own names, thanks, and prayers in the comments.