Knopfler knew his audience. Numbers from his more recent albums filled the opening forty-five minutes of a set that lasted more than two hours. Then there was a quiet pause before the opening bars of Romeo and Juliet were greeted by a huge wave of cheers; the delight was multiplied as he followed the gentle ballad with the very upbeat Sultans of Swing. There was a visible transformation in the crowd. Spectators who had been standing quietly appreciative roared their approval.
It was a very skilled piece of showmanship (combined, of course, with the genius of his guitar playing!).
The power of music to transform moods has been known for millennia.
Military bands were not about entertainment, they were about stirring up a response; the Scottish regiments did not go into battle led by a piper because he was an interesting cultural artefact. The emergence of national anthems were about eliciting a sense of identity and feelings
Some years ago, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a programme on music and sport. The inimitable Max Boyce talked about the place of music and Welsh rugby; once the crowd got into the singing of Cwm Rhondda, the opposition knew they hadn’t a chance. There were also interviews with those involved in England’s last qualifying match in 1997 for the 1998 world Cup finals. For England to qualify would be a “great escape”, they needed to garner a point from their last match. The fans knew the situation and, in the second half, began to whistle the theme tune from the film The Great Escape, the team was lifted by the sound echoing around Wembley and went on to the finals.
The church has used music for the whole of its existence, but we seem to have lost its vitality, lost sight of its power to change people. Many people stand silent, others are half-hearted in their participation, the music doesn’t change thoughts and moods. Perhaps it has become too banal, perhaps it is approached without expectation, but something is missing.
Can you imagine if the congregation approached their singing with the gusto of a Cardiff crowd?
I’ve just been reminded of the scene from Zulu.
I don’t know if it’s the same with you but modern rather banal hymns seem to have replaced the old belt ’em out Jerusalems and Onward Christian Soldiers of my youth. I think that’s why people love Christmas services because the carols are old and familiar and stirring . . .to this day a piper makes me cry and I don’t even like the bagpipes, they just stir an emotional response . . .weird I am!
After spending ten years in the forces it did not take long to realise that it is much easier and for more enjoyable to march with a good band playing some of the better known marches than to march in silence