The Well-Tempered Ear

What’s the best music to memorialize Sen. Edward ‘Ted’ Kennedy? | August 27, 2009

By Jacob Stockinger

Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy – the liberal Democrat from Massachusetts — died Tuesday night at the age of 77, after battling brain cancer for a year.kennedy

Like Moses, he viewed the Promised Land — national health care — but was not allowed to enter it. Still, his impact on social legislation affecting children, women, minorities, the poor and workers is certain to be deep and enduring.

His funeral is set for Saturday in Boston, and he will be buried near his brothers John F. and Robert F., in Arlington National Cemetery.

One wonders: What music would you choose to best memorialize him?

Kennedy, the third longest serving senator is U.S. history, was a devout Catholic and of Irish descent. He also loved music and especially singing.

Yet other kinds of music, with a different ethnic origin or religious affiliation, would be quite appropriate, no?

Brahms’ “German” Requiem would be ideal, especially the last movement, with its emphasis on “Blessed are the Dead, For their Works Live After Them.”

Alternatively, a man who knew such tragedy, scandal and turmoil might best be memorialized with the reassuring quietness of Faure’s Requiem.

Then there are Chopin’s famed Funeral March from his Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 35, and Beethoven’s Funeral Marches “for heroes” from the Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”) and the Piano Sonata in A-flat, Op. 26.

Perhaps there is just the right song, by Schubert or someone else. Or maybe someone knows just the right aria or chorus from a Bach cantata, Handel oratorio or Mozart Mass?

Anyway, send in your suggestions, as well as how they relate to your thoughts about Kennedy and his legacy.

Maybe no one will pay attention.

But, then again, maybe someone out there will.

And we can always listen, and mourn, in private.

Posted in Classical music


  1. Hi,
    Not sure that this is true:), but thanks for a post.

    Comment by Elcorin — September 13, 2009 @ 1:17 am

  2. Senator Kennedy was a big lover of Opera, I would
    suggest “La Boheme”, this is where he proposed to
    his lovely wife Vicki at the Met. The marriage had
    transformed him, they had a happy life together.

    Comment by Barbara DeMain — September 4, 2009 @ 12:54 pm

  3. I’m going to throw out a curve ball and say something by Amy Beach…her Grand Mass in E-Flat Major perhaps, or the Lento from her “Gaelic” Symphony. Much from her chamber music also captures a sort of stoic melancholy, an inner-mourning symptomatic of so many Irishmen and of course Kennedy in particular, given the many tragedies he was dealt. While Brahms or Beethoven would probably be closer to matching the fiery grandiosity of Kennedy’s political spirit, I like the programmatic connections of Beach. She was a New Englander, a Boston resident most of her life, and someone born into a family of means and destined for greatness. But she also found herself struggling for a place in history and thus worked very hard, ultimately proving her legitimacy as a composer and altering the perception of women musicians as merely stuck behind the keyboard in a parlor in the process.

    Comment by Brian H — August 27, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

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