The Locker Room

On that beautiful anthem played during the recessional Friday

Posted by Jon Sanders at 10:30 PM

Among the many powerful, moving moments of the Reagan funeral was the anthem and dirge that was playing during the recessional. I haven't been able to get that music out of my mind since I heard it — it arrested me from the start. As I was to learn, I wasn't the only one so affected.

This evening I searched the web to find out what it was, and I succeeded: here is a .pdf file listing all the music played during the service, including the lyrics. The specific anthem I was looking for is called "The Mansions of the Lord." I think it is appropriate to list the lyrics here:

To fallen soldiers, let us sing,
Where no rockets fly or bullets wing
Our broken brothers let us bring
To the Mansions of the Lord.

No more bleeding, no more fight
No prayers pleading through the night,
Just divine embrace, eternal light
In the Mansions of the Lord.

Where no mothers cry and no children weep
We will stand and guard though the angels sleep
All through the ages safely keep
The Mansions of the Lord.

This hymnic music was written in 2002 — for the Mel Gibson movie "We Were Soldiers" (text by Randall Wallace, music by Nick Glennie-Smith). The dirge following the anthem was also from the movie, according to's timely reviewers.

Considering Gibson's own passion for the Lord and for human liberty, how perfectly fitting that this "movie music" graced the National Cathedral in awe-inspiring tribute to "just an actor" who became the Great Liberator.

One other thing I'd like to add, concerning the music played in Reagan's honor: Immediately preceding "The Mansions of the Lord" was the hymn "Sing with All the Saints in Glory," which is sung to the tune of "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Hearing that, I couldn't help remembering that in December 1989, Leonard Bernstein conducted an all-star orchestra and chorus in Berlin in performing Beethoven's Ninth to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. Bernstein used a discredited old legend concerning the "Ode to Joy" text by Friedrich von Schiller — that it was originally conceived as an "Ode to Freedom" — to make the concert indeed an "Ode to Freedom."

In the liner notes provided by Deutsche Grammophon for its live recording of this concert, Bernstein wrote:

legend or not, I feel this is a heaven-sent moment to sing "Freiheit" [Freedom] wherever the score indicates the word "Freude" [Joy]. If ever there was a historic time to take an academic risk in the name of human joy, this is it, and I am sure we have Beethoven's blessing.

Knowing the history and the sheer human joy of the moment, which Reagan memorably helped to bring about, I always get goosebumps when the chorus bursts forth with "Freiheit schöner Götterfunken" [Freedom, bright spark of divinity]. This, too, was perfectly fitting music for the moment.

And upon reflection, "Sing with All the Saints in Glory" proclaims an even greater freedom.

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