One of the most achingly beautiful songs ever written

One of the most achingly beautiful songs ever written March 19, 2014

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  • James H, London

    Hey, it sounds just as good country-‘n’-westernified!

    The version played on Classic FM in the UK is by the Royal Marines. It was used in someone’s life story, and had the DJ in tears (cunningly hidden).

    It can still do that to me, given the right conditions (which are easily met, in this case).

  • That song is the reason I took up the accordion.

  • Colleen

    Every time I hear this song, all I think of is Ken Burn’s ‘Civil War’ documentary. And in my mind I hear the narrator saying “John Fields kissed his mother goodbye that July morning; that night he was found among the dead. He was 19 years old.”

    • I was just thinking that. It’s a beautiful song, no doubt about it, but I really have to filter my thoughts carefully so “Dearest Martha, Gangrene took my foot today, thanks to a Reb cannon shell. General Grant thinks we could be in Portsmouth by Winter, if’n the supplies hold out” doesn’t pop into my head.

  • meunke

    Came expecting Two Steps From Hell’s “Blackheart” or Nightwish’s “Sleeping Sun”. Leaving disappointed… 😉

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    “The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad,
    For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.” (G.K. Chesterton)

  • Sherry Weddell

    It was used most powerfully as the background of reading Sullivan Ballou’s last letter to his beloved wife, Sarah before the battle of Bull Run in Manassas, VA.

  • patricia Gonzalez

    Loved this ever since I heard it in ken Burns’s Civil War series. A true masterpiece!

  • Charles Culbreth

    I agree with all the comments regard the association with the Burns opus.
    Couple of things about this video clip: if you look intently at Unger the first go-round of the solo violin melody, you will see no visible emotional expression. I believe that is because Unger so totally lets his technique and the power of the melody reflect whatever is in the heart of the listener. (Underlying lesson for parish musicians and congregants: a. work on your craft, not your style; b. never underestimate the power of listening as not a means to full, active, conscious participation.) Secondly, the fairly sparse instrumentation with the lovely addition of the 2nd violin playing a sort of drone harmonic role, is pure humility. Note to those who plan huge event Masses such as at LA Rel.Ed. Congress and WYD Masses: do you really need five keyboardists, four types of guitars, an armada of percussion instruments to reflect the glory of the musical arts God gave us?

    For another “achingly beautiful” song, from the classical side, I always recommend Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” (originally string quartet.) No words necessary there either. Some associate this only with the film “Platoon” for which I will never compliment Oliver Stone for the gross misappropriation. It is the instrumental equivilent of Allegri’s MISERERE and it’s too bad it cannot be played on Good Fridays.

  • Hematite

    I do love that song and that series, and somehow all of this made me think of Kate Wolf:

    • Jonna

      I just love Kate Wolf! Thanks for this reminder. God bless.

  • AquinasMan

    Half-expected to get Rick-rolled. Glad I clicked.

  • Loretta

    Setting for the Sullivan Ballou letter, written prior to the First Battle of Bull Run, 1861. Mark, it’s time you re-read that. Especially considering the news on the Mom front. Google on the name and you’ll find it. We will always be with you as well, my friend, in the brightest day and darkest night. Do not mourn those who have gone before us. Think they are gone, and wait for them, for we shall meet again.