“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.’ – Colossians 3:16
Every man immediately stopped what he was doing.
Some were working. Some were sleeping. Some were smoking. Some were simply chatting or walking. It didn’t matter. They couldn’t help themselves.
What could make dozens of convicted murderers and thieves stare motionless at a loudspeaker at the same time?
The scene is forever ingrained in my memory from The Shawshank Redemption. The 1994 movie told the story of a banker named Andy (played by Tim Robbins) who was serving hard time at the Shawshank State Penitentiary. In this scene, Andy had managed to lock guards out of a room where he began playing a Mozart opera over the prison’s PA system. The warden threatened him through the door’s glass to “Turn it off!” But Andy wouldn’t let this rare opportunity slip by. He turned it up.
As he sank into a chair with his hands behind his head, soaking in Mozart with a grin of pure bliss, the prisoners throughout Shawshank stood in disbelief. Why was this beautiful music playing? The place was ruthless, making this opera the most unexpected gift. It seemed heaven-sent.
The incomparable Morgan Freeman, who played a fellow prisoner named Red, summarized the moment perfectly:
“I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away. And for the briefest of moments, every last man at Shawshank felt free.”
Earlier, Andy told Red, “…there’s a small place inside of us they can never lock away, and that place is called hope.”
For that brief moment, you could see hope on those prisoners’ faces. They had forgotten where they were – and why they were there. It was the look of being forgiven.
I believe music can change the world because it has the power to change our hearts. I thank God for those moments when I hear the perfect song at just the right time. No matter what we’re going through, everything else stops when music touches our soul.
Ed Doney, Staff Writer