Amidst the bustle and noise of Saturday shoppers, the summer breeze smoothed into a change of mood. Something sweet and beautiful was rising above the tide of voices. A group of four poncho-clad musicians had begun to play on pan-pipes to the gentle beat of a leather drum. We were transported in mind to the high mountains of the Andes, to crystal streams and pristine air. As the notes lifted and floated over the gathering circle, fractious infants in pushchairs became quiet, rowdy teenagers experienced a moment of reverence, and fraught couples bickering over debit cards ceased their strife and leaned into the oasis of calm. Music had charmed them all.

The great Maestro Paganini appeared on stage to rapturous applause and keen anticipation, such was his reputation as a great master of his art. As he prepared to begin his performance however, Paganini realised that the violin in his hand was not his own, but an inferior old substitute. Assuming that he had picked up the wrong instrument back stage, he excused himself and went to retrieve his own violin. It could not be found. Indeed it had been stolen. Paganini returned to his audience and declared that he would demonstrate that sweet music comes not from the merit of the instrument but from the soul. Thus he began to draw from the old violin, harmonies that soared and danced as enchantingly as from his costly violin. The audience was thrilled and delighted and expressed gratitude and admiration with a standing ovation. Something special had touched the heartstrings that night.

Tommy and John, two brothers, lived an alcohol-soaked life that degraded them to a state of abject poverty. They had no furniture but empty tea chests. They drank from jam jars and slept on a pile of rags on the floor. But, one day the music of heaven reached Tommy as he listened to a preacher directing souls like himself to faith in Jesus Christ. Tommy was transformed into a man of dignity, with the nobility of Godliness growing daily within him. He brought his brother John to the foot of the Cross, gloriously changed. One Sunday, in church, Tommy rose to his feet and said simply, but fervently, “Lord, we’re proud o’ Thee.” It was a song from his heart and soul, the essence of true worship.

One of the most moving scenes on television recently, concerned a PhD student who was researching lazer surgery for brain tumours. He himself became a pioneer of the method and proved its potential for success. During the operation he was gently awakened and asked to sing, to check that his speech ability was not impaired. He responded with the hymn, “Ten thousand reasons for my soul to sing: bless the Lord O my soul.” It was a testimony of faith in perilous times.

The Aeolian harp is simply an open wooden box with strings attached across it. The wind is its musician, breathing over the strings and creating music of such sublime beauty that some say must come from Heaven itself, singing hope into the air.

Nations at present, seem to be writhing in a great agony, and there is no song in the heart, only tears. Yet, souls that have been atuned to the Lord’s song have, even in sorrow been surprised by joy.

A poet described how a traveller, bowed with loads of care, found a harp, silent and unused. God sees his deep need of consolation, and ours too.

“The pilgrim strives in vain
with each unanswering chord
Until the tempest’s thunder sings
And moving on the storm, the fingers
of the Lord
A wondrous melody awakes
And though the battling winds
their soldier deeds perform
Their trumpet-sound brave music makes
While God’s assuring voice sings LOVE
across the storm.”

Iris Niven.

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