Traditional and Inspirational Songs About Hope and Bravery
The Wonder of Music
Music has the mysterious and often wonderful ability to influence our emotions, sometimes profoundly. It can calm us down when we're agitated, comfort us in times of sadness, and inspire us when we need help. Some genres may be more meaningful than others for certain listeners. Folk and traditional music are two styles of music that I enjoy. Sometimes they do more than entertain me. The pieces in this article cover the themes of hope and bravery, two qualities that can be very useful in life. The songs and the performers have interesting backgrounds that are worth exploring.
How Can I Keep From Singing
"How Can I Keep From Singing?" was originally a Christian song. The folk singer Pete Seeger removed the overtly religious references from the song during the 1960s but kept the inspirational theme. Seeger's version is the one sung below. An alternate name for the song is "My Life Flows on in Endless Song", which is the first line in each version. Unlike several of the songs in this collection, this one is sweet and pensive rather than triumphant.
The music is said to have been written by an American Baptist minister named Robert Wadsworth Lowry (1826–1899). This assumption may not be accurate. Lowry supervised the publication of many hymnals. He may have collected the tune instead of writing it himself.
The identity of the lyricist is even more uncertain than that of the composer. According to the first source in the "References" section below, the lyrics were published in the New York Observer in 1868 and were attributed to a woman named Pauline T.
"The New York Observer" refers to two newspapers. One was published from 1987 to 2016 and then transitioned to an online publication. The other was published in the nineteenth century by a geographer and journalist named Sidney Edwards Morse.
Meaning of the Lyrics
In the original lyrics, the singer says that despite "earth's lamentation" and "the tumult and strife" of life, they can hear people singing a hymn in the distance. As they listen, they can't help adding their voice to the choir. Over time, they find that the "peace of Christ" helps them to deal with life's problems as they continue to sing in gratitude.
The idea of inspiration and gratitude are still present in the version of the song in the video below, though the source of the inspiration is vague apart from a line about a fountain springing from deep within the Earth. In the original lyrics, the fountain comes from Christ. Nevertheless, the modified version still contains lines that could suggest an unearthly source of the inspiration.
Despite its name, Celtic Woman is a group of women instead of just one person. In the video above, Eabha McMahon is the singer.
Scotland the Brave
"Scotland the Brave" is often considered to be an unofficial national anthem for Scotland and is very popular. It was published around 1911 but was likely common before that time. The music is often played on the bagpipes without lyrics. Lyrics do exist, however. They were written by Cliff Hanley in 1951. The chorus is shown below. In the second line of the chorus, "hame" means home.The rest of the lyrics praise Scotland, its natural history, and its people.
Towering in gallant fame,
Scotland my mountain hame,
High may your proud standards gloriously wave,
Land of my high endeavour,
Land of the shining river,
Land of my heart for ever,
Scotland the brave.
A second set of lyrics has also been created for the piece. This version is sung by John McDermott, one of the original members of the group known as The Irish Tenors. The lines above are taken from the original lyrics of the song.
The music in the video above is performed by the pipe band of the Royal Tank Regiment in Britain. In the video below, Robert Wilson sings the original lyrics. He was a Scottish tenor who died in 1964.
Óró, Sé Do Bheatha Bhaile
"Óró, Sé Do Bheatha Bhaile" is a traditional Irish song. The word "Óró" is a cheer. The rest of the title welcomes someone home. The "someone" is a woman named Gráinne Mhaol or Grace O'Malley, a person who actually existed. In the song, she is returning to Ireland and is accompanied by a group of Irish soldiers. The song expresses the eager hope that she will "disperse the foreigners" (the English) from the country.
The real Grace O'Malley is often referred to as a pirate queen. She appears to have been an assertive and courageous person who was successful in many of her goals. She lived in the sixteenth century and was an atypical woman for that period. Grace owned multiple ships and led many men. Part of her life involved fighting the English, as the song suggests. This fight was very important for the Irish people, who wanted to govern themselves.
Mary Black is an Irish vocalist who sings folk and contemporary songs. One of her goals is to introduce Irish music to an international audience.
Mo Ghile Mear or My Gallant Darling
"Mo Ghile Mear" is another Irish song. In English, it's known as "My Gallant Hero", "My Gallant Darling", or "My Dearest Darling". The hero or darling in the song is Bonnie Prince Charlie, though he's not mentioned by name. The singer laments the loss of the prince.
Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720–1788) was the grandson of King James Vll of Scotland, who was also King James ll of England. Charles' father was living in exile in France but believed that it was his right to rule Britain. George ll (a Hanoverian) occupied the throne at the time.
While he was a young man, Charles went to Scotland to obtain the throne for the Stuarts by force. The Stuarts were Catholics and the Hanoverians were Protestants. Many Irish people supported Bonnie Prince Charlie and his cause. They believed that having a Catholic monarch would lead to a better life in Ireland.
Charles failed in his attempt to gain the throne. The Battle of Culloden in 1746 was the decisive event that defeated the prince and his forces. Charles used various disguises as he tried to escape from Scotland. He was eventually able to return to France, where he lived until he was sixty-eight.
Though the song honours Charles as a hero, I think that some of the brave people who helped him also deserve to be recognized. Many people lost their lives during the attempt to gain the throne for the Stuarts.
Orla Fallon is the singer in the video above. She's from Ireland and was once a member of Celtic Woman. She's a harpist as well as a vocalist.
Hope the Hermit Folk Song
"Hope the Hermit" is an old English folk song. People alive today remember singing it in their childhood, but it appears to be slowly fading into history. I think that's a shame. The song was published in The National Song Book, a 1906 collection of British songs edited and arranged by Charles Villiers Stanford. The book was intended to be an educational one for students studying music in schools.
The lyrics describe a wise and elderly hermit who lives in a forest. People from far and near visit him and are cheered by his advice. He tells them that:
The very longest lane,
Has a turning, it is plain,
E'en the blackest of clouds will fly.
The chorus repeats the theme of hope.
Though to care we are born,
Yet the dullest morn
Often heralds in the fairest day
Some of the other songs in this article may be more supportive when life is hard, but I think "Hope the Hermit" is an enjoyable piece of music.
Corrine Coles is a vocalist who has uploaded multiple folk songs on her YouTube channel. She sings some of the songs on the channel, including the one above.
The Lord's Prayer by Andrea Bocelli
The Lord's Prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13 in the Bible. The Bible is divided into sections called books."Matthew" is one of them. The Lord's Prayer is located in Chapter 6 and verses 9 to 13 in Matthew. Another version is given in Luke 11:2-4. The instruction to say the prayer is given by Jesus, which makes it important for many Christians.
The choir, orchestra, and soloist in the video below give a beautiful and soaring depiction of the prayer. The music and perhaps a feeling of something greater than ourselves may be inspiring even for people who aren't Christians. Even if this isn't the case, the music may be very enjoyable.
The words of the prayer vary slightly in different traditions. The last four lines in the version that I'm familiar with are shown below. They're sung as a triumphant climax in the video below.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Andrea Bocelli is an acclaimed tenor who has been blind since childhood. He was born in Italy and is popular internationally.
Land of Hope and Glory
"The Proms" is an eight-week celebration of classical music in the UK. The celebration was started in 1895. It takes place in summer and early fall in London and involves multiple events. Many of these events take place in the Royal Albert Hall, but some happen at other locations, including outdoor ones. The word "prom" is short for promenade concert. The term was once used for concerts in which the audience walked around a park as they listened to music.
A popular event for many people happens on the last day of the celebration. It's known as the "Last Night of the Proms" and is televised by the BBC. The music consists of light and patriotic classics. Part of the tradition is that the audience joins in the chorus of the patriotic songs, waving flags as they do so. I watched the event on television multiple times when I lived in the UK and always loved it.
"Land of Hope and Glory" is a popular piece that is often included in the event. The music was written by Edward Elgar. The piece is actually known as Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 in D major and was published in 1901. The poet A.C. Benson wrote the lyrics for the melody. The first line of the lyrics is sometimes used as the name of the whole piece.
I always found the soaring melody of the song exciting when I heard it at the Proms. Today the lyrics could be criticized for their excessive nationalism, but they matched the mood at the time when they were written. The first four lines are shown below.
Land of Hope and Glory,
Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee,
Who are born of thee?
The conductor in the video above is David Robertson. He currently conducts the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Magic of Music
The response to a piece of music may not be the same in everyone who hears it. Fortunately, the world of music is very wide and includes many styles for listeners to explore. If one genre is unappealing, others will almost certainly be attractive.
Music has much to offer in the way of personal enjoyment and inspiration. The quotation below from soprano Lesley Garrett sounds very accurate to me. I don't know what prompted the statement, but I love the thought.
That was when I realized that music is the most profound, magical form of communication there is.
Music can certainly be magical. It's a wonderful art form and method of communication. Hope, bravery, history, and many other topics can be presently very effectively in a musical form. Even when a listener perceives no message in a piece of music, listening to it can create memories that last for a long time.
- History of "How Can I Keep From Singing?" from Classic Cat
- Grace O'Malley information from The Irish Post newspaper
- Bonnie Prince Charlie facts from the Encyclopedia Britannica
- Lyrics of "Hope the Hermit" from a forum thread on mudcat.org. (The reader will need to scroll down the page to see a post with the full lyrics of the song.)
- Information about "Land of Hope and Glory" from the BBC
Questions & Answers
© 2020 Linda Crampton