Friday, January 4, 2019

Music and Memories

Studies have shown that music is the last memory those with dementia retain. I know for sure that I have many memories associated with specific pieces of music.

Last Sunday, we sang the carol “Born in the Night.” We were introduced to it by our pastor at the Kobe Union Church in Japan, Gerard Marks. He was from New Zealand where it was popular.
Born in the night, Mary's Child, A long way from your home;
Coming in need, Mary's Child, Born in a borrowed room.

Clear shining light, Mary's Child, Your face lights up our way;
Light of the world, Mary's Child, Dawn on our darkened day.

Truth of our life, Mary's Child, You tell us God is good;
Prove it is true, Mary's Child, Go to your cross of wood.

Hope of the world, Mary's Child, You're coming soon to reign;
King of the earth,
Mary's Child, Walk in our streets again.

Geoffrey Ainger (1925-)

During our three holiday seasons in Japan, we became very fond of this carol. When we heard it again on Sunday, many images from our stay played in my mind: friends from around the world, sights and sounds, the long drive over Rokko Mountain to go to church, leading contemporary music, the Kobe Luminarie, other decorations, and holiday parties.

Another song Pastor Marks loved was “Our God is an Awesome God.” When it was on the schedule, we assumed he’d ask us to repeat it—often many, many times.
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love.
Our God is an awesome God

Rich Mullins

One very special memory triggered by this song is the weekend we spent at Camp Sengari with the church family. The first weekend in September every year, the congregation decamped to this facility to spend time in Bible study, camping, enjoying the hot springs and the outdoors, eating together, and playing together. This was our first experience of the Japanese bath.

What we discovered was the Japanese bath was not so much about getting clean, it was more about socializing and spending time together. We had a Japanese-style bath in our “mansion” (mahn-shone)—our penthouse apartment—in Takarazuka. We only used it once or twice during our time there because the master bath in our room had a shower/tub combo, and we are shower people.

At the end of our Sunday service at Sengari, we sang “Our God is an Awesome God”—several times. It seemed an appropriate finale to a very special time for all of us.

The contemporary group at our current church occasionally chooses a song we sang during the years we led music at our church in California, or when we assisted in leading music in Japan, or even harkens back to the traditional hymns I learned as a child. And all the associated memories come flowing back.

Do you ever have memories associated with specific songs? What are they?


  1. My music memory focuses more on the songs of the end of the 30s, 40s and 50s. 30s some of my mom's favorite songs that she'd play on the piano, 40s were the song popular during the war and 50s songs/music from movies.

    1. I have all of those, too. Next week, I plan to write about my mother as well as a special song which triggers many memories.

    2. I, too, am a big fan of music from the 1930s, '40s and '50s. My Dad and I set up a website in the late '90s documenting his service in WW2 and we included much wartime music ( and click on the 'Music' link ). I subsequently added A LOT of the most popular music from about 1900 through 1960. So many great songs from that period have been mostly lost to history and it's been my hope that our site would help make people aware once again of all that great old music.

  2. I enjoyed listening to those hymns that have special meaning for you. I couldn't agree with you more that memories can be associated with certain pieces of music. I will sometimes hear a song from my grade school, high school or college years and remember some momentous event that occurred in my life at the time the song was popular.

    I really enjoyed your series a while back on your trip to Europe. Your posts were so vivid and detailed that I felt like I was there travelling with you! I was going to do some travelling myself, but I thought that I might just wait for future world travels from you and travel vicariously through you. :-)

    1. Thanks, Tom. When we retired in 2011, we went to visit my aunt and uncle. Each of them--separately--said, "Travel!" We've been to a lot of places in the world--and I still have quite a few to go.