The Music of Remembrance November 11 2013, 1 Comment

A Sacred Memorial in Music to Veterans

Contributed by Jack Kopstein Music that stirs the soul has become the very essence of our salute to veterans everywhere. Originally known as Armistice Day, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, November 11, 1918, was declared the day of the armistice in WWI. Later following WWII, the official name was changed to Veterans Day to honor all of those who have served and are still are serving in the military. Cities and organizations around the area are holding Veterans Day observances to remember all of those brave souls. All wars have many things in common. One thing is music. From the American Civil War and World War I and World War II to the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, music has proven vital to heading off to war, coming home from war and remembering war. The music of war memorial is solemn in nature. That’s probably because in the long run, war always seems a solution of last resort – sometimes necessary but rarely desirable and never totally victorious or without terrible cost. It is a bittersweet and poignant, not joyful, occasion. And that is how remembering it should also be. A piece by Sir Edward Elgar  is often used to remember the dead and the fallen, one that is particularly popular in Britain and Commonwealth countries on Remembrance Day, which is similar to the American Memorial Day. It is the “Nimrod” Variation from Elgar’s wonderfully effective “Enigma” Variations. The military band version is very effective and is played every  year at the war memorial in Ottawa , Canada. Remembrance Day services are generally held at cenotaphs and war memorials, or in a variety of churches and halls. In addition to symbolic laying of a wreath at a memorial, the services may include a number of hymns, recitals of poems, and short speeches or sermons. The key music played at or shortly before 11am is "the last post", a Bugle Call historically played at the end of the military day and traditionally at military and ceremonial funerals. This is followed by a period of silence, and then the "rouse" is played, another bugle call which in a military context is a signal for soldiers to get up. The National Anthem and a number of Patriotic Hymns are often played. Below you will find a number of pieces of music which are suitable for Remembrance Day services, but also in most cases for military funerals or the funerals of individuals who have died in conflicts.
  • Taps
  • The Last Post (bugle or trumpet)
  • The Rouse (bugle or trumpet)
  • God Save the Queen
  • I Vow to Thee My Country
  • O Valiant Hearts
  • The Lord's My Shepherd
  • Flowers of the Forest
  • Handel's Largo
  • Abide with Me

Music can have a mysterious yet powerful connection with the emotions, and under the right circumstances it can help people to come to terms with grief and loss. This is the aim of the album entitled " A Musical Memorial for America's Veterans”

Films set during the war years have also used themes and symbols associated with Remembrance Day, and some of these may prove fruitful in suggesting suitable music for Remembrance Day. One piece of film music in particular is the "Hymn for the Fallen" by John Williams. It was composed for "Saving Private Ryan" but is only used in the End Titles of the film. It is one of the most beautiful instrumental hymns.

Taps is a famous musical piece, played in the U.S. military during flag ceremonies and funerals, generally on bugle or trumpet. The tune is also sometimes known as "Butterfield's Lullaby", or by the lyrics of its second verse, "Day is Done". The bugle call was composed by the Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, an American Civil War general who commanded the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division in the V Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Butterfield wrote the tune at Harrison's Landing, Virginia, in July 1862. Taps also replaced "Tattoo", the French bugle call to signal "lights out." Butterfield's bugler, Oliver W. Norton, of Erie, Pennsylvania, was the first to sound the new call. Within months, Taps was used by both Union and Confederate forces. To all who have served and are serving and will serve, thank you. We  here at Altissimo! hope you and your loved ones find this article  fitting and a worthy memorial to our service people everywhere and those whom have come before.

- Jack Kopstien