If I were to name a handful of songs that shape the rhythm of my life, I think I’d include a number of short ditties used in TV programming. Theme songs from Brady Bunch, Happy Days, and Cheers all give a clue to what makes me tick. My daughter Lindsey shared with me a podcast called Song Exploder, where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. The short piece on the Downton Abbey theme song is absolute magic.
About a year into our time in Germany, PBS’ excellent series Masterpiece Theater offered viewers a sweeping saga that captured aristocratic life in pre-war England. Downton Abbey, with it’s manor house, lords and ladies, and the ever attentive staff, swept our entire family into the good life. From the very first bars of the theme song, you just knew something good was about to begin. And that’s the role of a good theme song…to capture the viewers attention, draw him/her to the program and immerse them in the experience. I remember coming home one evening, opening the front door slowly and imagining what it would be like if the Downton Abbey theme song were to start playing at just that moment; as if the music was going to set the stage for how the evening (and perhaps my life) would progress from that moment on.
I scrolled through the archive list from Song Exploder and stumbled upon a nice piece about U2’s Cedarwood Road including commentary from Bono and The Edge talking about how they collaborate on a song, helping the listener understand how emotions and feelings find their way into great music. This song has never been a favorite of mine but after listening to the story behind it, I can’t help but fall in love. I wonder if loving something or someone comes in part because of the story that’s told.
This past summer, during our worship service, my church featured classic hymns and songs of the faith. Sometimes we shared the composer’s story about the writing of the hymn but by far, the most memorable stories were personal accounts from church members and the songs they love. Often, they told stories about songs they heard or sang during specific events in their lives…these songs reminded them of God’s grace and His love and care for them. And because I now know a story to go with a song, it means something more to me too. I will never sing Blessed Be Your Name without thinking of my dear friend’s loss of her dad or listen to God of Wonders without pondering the mystery of science and technology. I now carry these stories adding to a great database already inside me of swirling emotions and feelings; helping me connect with others and encouraging me to share my own stories of loss and love as expressed in great music.