It Heals the Soul

It Heals the Soul

Have you ever thought about how a combination of sounds in what we call "music" can carry you back to another time and place? To a romantic spring afternoon, when you held her hand; to an aching autumn’s funereal march, which took this nation’s president to his Arlington grave; to mother’s soothing lullaby of long, long ago.

Music is a combination of sounds, which can conjure up feelings of hurt, sorrow, immeasurable joy and deep melancholy.

It may be just a few notes from chimes you played as a child; or the alluring strums of guitars as they serenade Puff the Magic Dragon; or the orchestral maelstrom of strings and woodwinds, drums and horns, organized into the complex sounds, that manifest Beethoven’s Ninth.

Barry Manilow boastfully sang, "I am music," when he was riding high in the pop charts. Not even Tchaikovsky would dare make such a claim. For, from time immemorial we have sought to stir or calm our spirits, ease or rile our souls, with measures of sounds we know as music, the pinnacle of which is the classical symphony.

A little more than a year ago we lost our own stunning and majestic musical wonder, a wonder we sadly had taken for granted, when The Arlington Symphony, burdened with financial woes, suddenly had to cancel its season and fold its tent.

At around the same time WETA ended its commitment to classical music recordings, our community found itself faced with the end of sixty years of live, classical music; music befitting the jewel that is Arlington.

While most of us threw up our hands and bemoaned this loss and then carried on; a group of the professional musicians from the Orchestra, and some supporters, refused to accept total death. They came together and created The Arlington Philharmonic, a chamber orchestra that has given Arlington free classical concerts in April, July and this past weekend; all at Kenmore Middle School, which is the Philharmonic's new home, on Carlin Springs Road at Arlington Boulevard.

The Arlington Philharmonic, at its Web site:, explains its purpose and goal, "Starting with our core of musicians and with our renowned music director, Maestro Ruben Vartanyan, we will build incrementally as our resources allow," and further pledges that "step-by-step, year-by-year, we will grow from a chamber-size orchestra into a full-size symphony orchestra."

Imagine the trepidation you might feel at taking on such a task. Nothing is certain for them, yet the determination of those who are the Philharmonic is apparent. They will move forward and they will succeed. From what had to be sinking hearts one year ago they have pulled back from the brink, and embraced a mission that you and I are obliged not just to admire, but to support.

All the Philharmonic has now is a volunteer coordinator and borrowed office space to back up the Maestro and his musicians. They need and deserve our donations, for The Arlington Philharmonic is pursuing and presenting classical music at its best. Their story, alone, shows the triumph of dedication and determination to Arlington and the arts, without which a community cannot thrive.

The loss of The Arlington Symphony was a disheartening catastrophe. The birth of The Arlington Philharmonic is cause for joy and hope.

You can help move the Philharmonic forward by buying your ticket to its upcoming Charter Membership Reception to be held on Sunday, Nov. 12, at the new Westin Arlington Gateway hotel on Glebe Road near Wilson Boulevard. in Ballston. To purchase a ticket for $100 ($150 per couple), write your tax-deductible check to the Arlington Philharmonic Fund and mail it to: Arlington Philharmonic Association, P.O. Box 101103, Arlington, VA 22210. It that’s too steep for your budget, you can make a donation to the fund at the same address.

For information on new concerts and activities be sure to check out the Philharmonic's Web site regularly.

We’ve got something to hope for, Arlington. In addition to what appears to be a hopeful election, we now have a new music tradition which, with your support, will grow into the symphony that many of us thought had been forever lost.

Thank you, Arlington Philharmonic, for believing in Arlington and its future; for bringing back the healing tones of music; and for having the courage to make it happen.

Nick Penning ( is an Arlington freelance writer. His column, "Penning Thoughts," is published in alternating editions of The Arlington Connection.