Resolve that Chord!
Written by Don Hughes, Christmas 2018
During this time of year, it is so good to hear the traditional Christmas hymns performed in a variety of venues, by various artists and musicians, and by local congregations throughout the land. It has always been an important part of my personal worship this season, and each year for many years I have attempted to take the time, to sit and ponder, and write a Christmas song.
I remember many years ago, being invited to play my trumpet at a small Baptist church house in Cheyenne during a Christmas service. It is a small, white church house on a corner, and the congregation was very small. There was a choir loft in the rear of the chapel, and I stood up there and played out across the tops of the people as they joyously sang Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. I felt like Gabriel playing the trumpet to usher in the resurrection!
Betwixt these rockie pillars
Chief of the Angelic guards
He ended, and the Son gave
To the bright minister that
Watch’d, he blew
His trumpet, heard in Oreb.
From Paradise Lost by Milton
As any musician knows, music is a universal language, and perhaps the only thing that transcends both time and space. It has been a part of the human experience since the dawn of time, and sometime during the medieval times the discipline of music became the basis of our modern tuning systems, and the “rudiments” of making music. Notation, key signatures, time signatures, rhythmic notation and mathematical progression of “notes”. A chord in music is any harmonic set of three or more notes that is heard as if sounding simultaneously. And these notes move about within a scale of pitches, and even the untrained ear can hear when a note is “off key”, or in other words played or sung outside of the signature scale. Perhaps this natural ability to recognize a note, or subsequent chord, as out-of-place is instilled in our memory of a pre-mortal life where harmony and music was an integral part of our existence. I had a music theory professor who would turn his piano so as not to see the keys, play a scale or chord progression, and make us identify not only the key is was in, but what the next chord to play should be. After a while, it was easy to “hear’ the natural progression. To this day, I’m not sure where that natural progression comes from, perhaps somewhere deep in our psyche. If you ever listen to a song, or phrase in a song, and the final chord is left “hanging” and not resolved, it may drive you insane until someone plays it and brings it to a close. You have to hear that final note, otherwise it haunts you. “Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb, Mary had a little lamb, its fleece as white………” You get the idea.
This pattern of “chord progression” seems to not be mutually inclusive to the realm of music. In our everyday life, we sense when an act, or a thought, or a problem seems to be “unresolved”. Usually, we can only find peace with ourselves, and perhaps others, when such issues do finally become resolved.
At the close of yet another year, may each of our lives complete all un-resolved issues, whether it be with family, friends or with ourselves. Life is too precious and short to leave things “hanging”. Like music, only when the final note and chord is played does the song finally, truly end.