Celestial Sonata

A retreat director once asked me a fascinating question. He said, “If heaven’s filled with music, which we know it is, what piece of music on earth would you want to be playing when you first entered into Paradise? In other words, what song evokes God most clearly for you in this life?”

I told him I couldn’t answer on the spot — it was too deep a question for a casual response. Time passed, and one day I heard on the radio the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, popularly known as the Moonlight Sonata — which I’ve long loved. As I listened to it, the retreat director’s question came into my mind and I was overwhelmed with emotion. I knew in that instant, that was it. I have no idea why I knew, but I did. And do. Spes mea.

My wife, who is such a beautiful human being, proceeded to memorize the Sonata score and played it on my birthday ten years ago. I streamed copious tears.

Here’s the Sonata:

What’s yours?

33 comments on “Celestial Sonata

  1. nos says:

    ” Mary did you know” by Mark Lowery

  2. Josie Rosie says:

    My favorite is Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”.

  3. Fr Josh Johnson says:

    Pharrell Williams- Happy

  4. Chris Baglow says:

    “Gabriel’s Oboe” by Ennio Morricone

  5. Michael says:

    If the Angels pause in their singing, how about – “Time after Time”?

  6. nos says:

    I changed my mind yes yes we men do it too .” The prayer by Josh Gorham and Charlotte church .

  7. Mark says:

    Benedictus, St. Cecilia’s Mass by Gounod, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dfnt26T5uEs

  8. Jennifer says:

    don’t know yet, but have to say Patti’s birthday gift to you = !!!!! What a beautiful person!

  9. Lisa says:

    Gabriel Faure’s Requiem: In Paradisum

    That sounds strange, a requiem, but when I first heard this, sadly at my cousin’s graveside service, I felt as I have never felt before or since, like being carried on the breath of God. Thank you for your post and sharing your choice.

    • Lisa: Totally new for me. Thank you for sharing it. It has that “heaven tore open” feeling to it, and I totally understand how grace can enter you in a vulnerable moment through music that matches the vulnerability. In your case, grief that seeks hope. Very beautiful.

  10. Dismas Dancing says:

    Oh, my dear, dear Professor. “What’s yours?” is a question my heart and soul responds to much like “El Toro” responds to the waving of “El Matador’s” cape. Unlike El Toro, however, my response is not one of anger, but one borne of pure fascination and delight. Like you, I have so many upon which to ponder a favorite. Long ago, however, I settled on two. Here’s why:

    (I omitted a lengthy explanation of how music came to be an integral part of my life in order to shorten this post—still too long!)

    From these vestigial moments in music, I went on to sing in college choruses and in every chapel choir throughout our 28 ½-year career in the Corps. In New Orleans after my final tour in the Corps, while working as a contractor on a Navy project with Lockheed Martin, a fellow employee and dear friend invited me to audition with the Symphony Chorus of New Orleans. One of the great special thrills of my life was the nearly four years I spent with the Chorus before leaving NOLA in 2001.

    Every year, as part of their concert season, the Symphony Chorus offered Handel’s “Messiah” just prior to Christmas. My first experience with that magnificent work was my attendance at a concert offered by the First Baptist Church in Pensacola many, many years ago. Having just become involved with my church choir, I was absolutely blown over by the pure beauty and magnificence of that classic Oratorio. My greatest desire after hearing it was to some day actually perform it myself as part of a large chorus. Over the next 45 years or so, I have been privileged to participate in numerous concerts performing the entire piece or at least some which contained one or more of the great Messiah choral works within it.

    During my time with the NOLA chorus, Klauspeter Seibel was the Symphony maestro. For the annual concert, he would always assemble the best talent for the solo arias and for the beautiful orchestral accompaniment. “Messiah” has lifted me up in an overwhelmingly spiritual fashion ever since the first time I heard it. While performing it, one of the hardest pieces for me personally to get through without literally choking up is the final chorus, “Worthy is the Lamb”, followed by the great “Amen”. Please see the link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUHpXP-w2DU . For most, the magnificent “Halleluiah” Chorus, the stunning piece celebrating the Resurrection, is the great spiritual mover. For me, however, the final glorious summation of our faith is found in G.F. Handel’s choral treatment of St. John’s “Book of Revelation” tribute to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and the entire Godhead, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain and hath redeemed us to God, to God by His Blood, to receive power and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing…Forever and ever. Amen.” (Rev 5:11-14). But wait, as beautiful as these final choruses are, the aria (solo) that concomitantly confirms my reason and desire to do the things in this life that will—I pray—qualify me at the very least for even the tiniest consideration for entry into the Heavenly Banquet is the bass/baritone solo aria: “Behold, I tell you a mystery. The trumpet shall sound…and we shall be changed!” (1 Cor, 15:51-54). Please see also the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkBEEJi_igo . During the chorus’ “Messiah” concert in 1999, the solo trumpeter for that aria was a very young lady who, in my humble opinion, out-trumpeted any master I had heard throughout the years before. During rehearsal, much to the maestro’s surprise, the entire chorus of nearly 200 voices stood and applauded this young lady’s virtuoso performance on the trumpet. Thus, in my dreams and prayers, the sound of that triumphant trumpet always awakens me to the tasks necessary in this life to attain the privilege of being with the sheep at Jesus’ right hand, being made “incorruptible…changed in the twinkling of an eye” by the Almighty God Who knew me before I was in the womb (Isaiah) and guided me to the “final destination.”. “Halleluiah”, indeed! “Worthy is the Lamb”, indeed! Deo Gratias! Deo Gratias! Deo Gratias! Thanks for the beautiful reminder, my friend. You indeed, have made this day extra special!!!!! Pax tecum!

    • I concur with nos that you have an amazing story to tell and tell your story amazingly well. The Messiah excerpts you share are perfect illustration of the way Handel supposedly explained the genesis of the oratorio, Messiah: “I did see all of heaven opened before me, and the great God himself.” I would say, yeah, that’s the way it feels! Thanks for bringing your choice alive in this comment. God love you, DD. BrT

      • Dismas Dancing says:

        Brother Tom and NOS. Thanks for your precious comments. My life indeed has never been boring, so there are many stories to tell, none of them made up; and I have only scratched the surface, much to the chagrin of a number of friends. The Lord has blessed me with 1) a rich treasure trove of experiences ranging from the ridiculously sublime to the sublimely ridiculous (a borrowed phrase, btw). 2) a desire to tell them to those interested, coupled with the privilege of having had a magnificent high school English teacher in my junior year who taught me how to write and challenged me to do so frequently. She was a Sister of Mercy who instilled in me a genuine love of language and how to use it. Combined with a deep love of my Catholic faith and true tales extant with good and bad results to share, I happened upon Brother Tom’s site a few years back. His patient forbearance with my lengthy story-telling, and the wisdom encountered every day within his words and the sincere comments thereto draw me daily to each of you like the proverbial moth to the flames. In and through each of you, I have learned so much about my own faith (and lack thereof periodically). In the recent months of family triumphs and tragedies you have raised me up in the perfect sense of nos’ reference to Josh Groban’s beautiful rendition of “You Raise Me Up.” God bless you all for being here; and you, Brother Tom, for following the Holy Spirit’s call to share your learned blog. Today’s exercise was an unexpected, but joyfully rich reward. Your generous comments are greatly appreciated and humble me more than you know, exactly what I need–the humility, that is! God’s Peace and blessings be with you all.

  11. nos. says:

    I’ve changed my mind again Thomas . ” You raise me up ” by Josh Groban

  12. nos. says:

    Dismas, you have me in tears you story teller you,thank you so so much, what great memories you have been given.

  13. Brian says:

    An Taiseiri
    Noirin Ni Riain and The Monks of Glenstal abbey

  14. Anthony says:

    Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana intermezzo!

    My second choice would be Gustav Holst’s The Planets, Op. 32.

    But especially Venus, The Bringer of Peace.

    And Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity. (Does it sound familiar about 3 minutes in?)

    That being said… The hymn “How Great Thou Art” probably speaks the most deeply to my soul. I want to give whoever wrote that a hug when we meet in Heaven.

    • Anthony: Wow! What a rich collage of beauty! Thank you for introducing me to these, and for allowing me to finally know where the melody for “O God Beyond All Praising” comes from. I LOVE that song. And How Great Thou Art — consummately huggable. 🙂 Thank you — what an artistic soul you have. Peace and blessings to the family!

    • AMDG says:

      What a great surprise! “O God Beyond all Praising” is my favorite hymn.
      I share Dismas Dancing’s choice of the Messiah and most particularly “The trumpet shall sound…” and too “Worthy is the Lamb…Amen,” which I have long thought will be what I hear as I approach heaven. What awaits us (by God’s great Mercy, I pray) upon arrival is beyond our earthly hearing, I think.

  15. WoopieCushion says:

    I just think there’s incredible music in the sharing here! Heavenly. Amazingly fruitful post.

  16. bro en spiritu says:



  17. samiam72113 says:

    I feel a little late to the party, but the song for me is “Raining at Sunset” by Chris Thile

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