New Song NY

Memorial Song Premier, Emotional Pain and Pleasure

In February of 2007 our elder daughter died from the injuries she received in a car crash. My husband and I donated money to our church in her memory. The funds were used to commission a choral piece, “We Remember Them,” by St. Paul, Minnesota composer Elizabeth Alexander. Alexander often uses poem as lyrics and for “our” song she used “A Litany of Remembrance” by Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn.

Several weeks ago our church choir premiered the song. We told our grandchildren about the premier and said attendance was up to them. Interestingly, both children came up with excuses not to attend. Listening to a piece in memory of their mother was just too painful.

We were very emotional before the service began. As it progressed, my husband and I became so emotional we couldn’t sing any of the hymns. Both of us were trying not to cry and that took all of our energy.

I asked for the words of the song to be printed in the service program and we followed along as the choir sang them. The piece contains some unusual chords, key changes, and a forte passage that is a gut-grabber. “Don’t cry, don’t cry,” I said to myself. The premier of “We Remember Them” is a grief marker in our lives, a reminder of the raw pain of grief and the realization that it will be with us for the rest of our lives.

When we approved Rabbi Gittelsohn’s poem as lyrics, we didn’t know his poem was famous. According to a dear friend, “A Litany of Remembrance” is often read at Jewish memorial services and gravestone unveilings. She did some research on the rabbi and gave me a fact sheet about him.

Rabbi Gittelson was a Marine chaplain and at Iwo Jima during World War II. President Harry S. Truman appointed him to a civil rights committee. He was a popular speaker and President of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, Central Conference of American Rabbis, and Association of Reform Zionists of America. The poet, scholar and religious leader died in 1995 at the age of 85. His son David gave the composer permission to use the poem.

“A Litany of Remembrance” touches people of many faiths. The last line tells us how to approach life after experiencing profound sorrow. “So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us… ” I think this is the real message of the song and carry it with me. The premier of “We Remember Them” was painful and powerful.

“We Remember Them” is a comforting song and I hope many choral groups will sing it. Singing together brings us together and music gives us hope.

Copyright 1009 by Harriet Hodgson
party planning blog

Mon, December 24 2012 » Self Improvement

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