“I remember the time I knew what happiness was; let the mem’ry live again.” — from “Memory” in the musical “CATS” by Andrew Lloyd Webber
I have been touched deeply by two musical stories resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Both feature the same little girl, Amelia Anisovych, age seven.
Amelia gained fame on the Internet when she sang the song “Let it Go” from Disney’s “Frozen” — and she sang it to a crowd in a bomb shelter in Ukraine.
In recent days, from safety with relatives in Poland, she appeared at a fundraising concert and sang the Ukrainian national anthem.
I may have been the only U.S. citizen who needed to search out a clip and listen to the translation of “Let it Go,” but I did search. I was touched by how defiant and strong the song is. Amelia Anisovych sang it in Ukrainian — but like any Disney-loving seven-year-old, she sang it from memory.
Then she did the same with the national anthem.
That’s had me thinking. If I were trapped, what song would I sing to anyone with me — or to myself? What stories would I repeat about family members getting through difficult times, or enjoying brighter ones? (Chances are they would be the stories I’ve heard dozens of times, stories I remember my parents telling me.)
What poems would I recite to express the pain of being trapped? One would have to be “A Prayer Under Pressure of Violent Anguish” by Robert Burns.
What songs would I sing to build up morale? “I Have Confidence” from “The Sound of Music” would do nicely — when I feel low, I like to sing that until it’s true.
“Memory,” from “CATS,” would fit, too — the quotation above and “Daylight! I must wait for the sunrise! I must think of a new life, and I mustn’t give in. When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too, and a new day will begin.”
Thinking over these powerful memories reminds me that the expression for “memorizing” in much of the English-speaking world is “committing to memory.” It’s a commitment to remember things for when they might be needed.
Music is so connected to memory that a popular hit from a particular year, for good or evil, can bring back the time it was popular like few other things. So when you’re not fond of how things are now, try reminding yourself of music from a different time. I probably wouldn’t escape with my cello if real trouble hit, but the discipline of practicing and memorizing great cello music at least leaves me with tunes to hum or whistle.
What do you feel like listening to or singing repeatedly? Let it, well, happen. Keep the material in your mind.
May you never need it, but if you do, you’ll be ready.
Filed under: Music and language