How Musicians Respond to Tragedy


Hope is often defined as a desire and search for a future good.   In light of the many tragic events plaguing our world today, it’s a word that we seem to hear more and more often.  A word we look to when grief happens and sorrow takes hold.

When events like those that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the Boston Marathon happen, how do you cope?  As musicians, educators, and directors, how do you help your students, ensembles, and choir members?   How do you find hope?

For so many of us, the answer is often on the tips of our tongues and the ends of our fingers.   Music evokes feelings that language alone can’t.  It touches the mind and the heart, revitalizing the spirit.  The response from the music community to these tragic events was, and continues to be, incredible.  In the wake of these tragedies, there have been many new songs written to remember, to celebrate, to pay tribute, to unite, and to hope.

Composer Lloyd Larson responded through his piece “Dwell in the Light Forevermore.”  Larson’s dedication reads:  “For all who grieve and in memory of the children and adults of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012.”

Larson goes on to say, “I was working on Susan Bentall Boersma’s new lyric, Dwell in the Light Forevermore, on Friday, December 14, 2012, when a lone gunman burst into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, inexplicably taking the lives of twenty young children and six adult staff members within a matter of minutes.  As news of the tragedy spread, I, like so many, was devastated by the senseless loss of life.  I found Susan’s words to be a source of solace and hope that day:

Through the valley of shadows, lost in the dark of night,
our God goes before us to lead us to the light.
There will be no more night!
No need for lamp or ray of sun, the Lamb will be the light.
There will be no more night!
No need to fast, to watch, to weep around the throne so bright.

“My dear friend and mentor, the late Dr. Robert H. Reardon, President of Anderson University (Indiana) from 1958-83, said to me several years ago following the unexpected death of his wife, Geraldine:  ‘Grief is a common journey we all share in life.  Though none of us wish to take the trip, eventually we must all travel it.’”

Lloyd’s new composition is now giving solace to others affected by tragedy.

Newtown Students sing Over the RainbowEven given of all that has happened, communities like Sandy Hook and Boston continue to come together, and to turn to music to draw hope out of the darkness.   The classic tune “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” served as a beacon of light for those students in Sandy Hook.   This past winter, they took this American classic into the studio and recorded a very touching version of the song:

If you wish to add a tribute or memorial piece to your next concert, the following works will serve this purpose well — to unite, to honor, to give hope:

Memorial Anthems for Choir


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