Day 5: What hope sounds like to a musician

Today, could we find a quiet moment to close our eyes and listen to hope? Alice Sciscioli Pratt, an instructor at the Hochstein School of Music, shares her thoughts on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony…


Hope never eludes me when I reach the fourth movement of the famous Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven. It was his last symphony before he died.  Deaf at the time of its composition and first performance and having lived through such a tumultuous time in history, what was in his heart that, at the very end of his life’s work,  propelled the vision of hope despite such bleakness?

The most famous section of this movement includes the setting of the poem “Ode to Joy”, by the German poet Friedrich von Schiller. There have been countless other lyrics put to Beethoven’s melody and it found its way into many a hymnal, suggesting that there is something inherent in those notes about the love of our God with or without the original poem.  But the most thrilling version is the one from its source. Besides the melody, the orchestral writing is beyond what I can describe in words. One must listen. One must be open to feel.  How could this suffering man end his work with such an uplifting and hopeful finale? Was his love of God so big that it overcame his own hardships to leave us with such an amazing work of art? Was God driving his hand as he wrote, hearing the orchestration only in his mind?

Having sung this once under the baton of the great Eugene Ormandy, conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga, NY I recall the spontaneous hugs of the chorus when the lights went out after we took our final applause as performers. I remember wanting to jump for joy, a phrase perhaps I had not truly understood before.  I believe God used this incredible genius to leave a message to us, for as long as the earth is to be.

As mentioned above, the lyrics have often been changed. Looking at the English translation of the original German poem, the language sung by the singers in the symphony, two sections seem to speak in words what Beethoven suggests in music:

Joy, thou source of light immortal,
Daughter of Elysium!
Touched with fire, to the portal,
Of thy radiant shrine, we come.
Your sweet magic, frees all others,
Held in custom’s rigid rings,
All men on earth become brothers,
In the haven of your wings.


Endure courageously, you millions!
Endure for the better world!
Over the starry canopy
A good God will reward you!

Alice S PrattAlice Sciscioli Pratt directs the Hochstein Little Singers and teaches classes for early childhood. Formally an elementary school music teacher for the Rochester City Schools, she is also now on the faculty of Nazareth College. Alice lives with her husband, Ronald, and has two grown daughters. 

Today’s journal page was designed by Kathy Bills. She lives in the Village of Webster, and enjoys contributing to the community by serving on the Planning Board and as a board member of the Webster Community Chest.  She is a member of the Immaunuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in the village.  She has two sons and four young grandchildren and she loves and appreciates every moment that all brings!  She’s currently looking for a job – office work of any type, customer service. Her experience is in advertising sales and office management.

To download today’s journal page and write your own thoughts, please click here. (We don’t quite have 40 pages yet, so if you’d like more information on submitting one, please click here.)

Here’s a glimpse of today’s page:


Day 2: Having hope — and offering kindness — on Valentine’s Day

Today’s post comes to us from a dear friend and seeker of God, Diane Sturmer. We’ve all had hopes that were delayed, dreams that were changed. That’s why her story is so perfect — for all of us. May we learn from her example of living a joyful, hopeful life.

Diane Sturmer visiting Ireland

Diane Sturmer visiting Ireland

As a single person, Valentine’s Day was one of those holidays that was tough for me.   I felt a little extra lonely.  So, I decided to write a letter each Valentine’s Day and in it describe the kind of person I would like to be with in the future. Here are some of my thoughts…

I hope you like the sound of the rain as much as I do.  I hope that you will be someone who loves to laugh, loves to sing and play music.  I would love to be with someone who loves to play with children and puppies. You must be kind.  I envision a man with strengths and weaknesses who knows His grace abounds.  I hope you know how very precious life is.

In 2002, I wrote “my love for you has turned into prayer for you to our Father though you may not know where those prayers are coming from.” It was neat to think that even though I had no idea what God had in mind for my future, I could pray for that person.

I would write this letter early in the morning, then seal it in an envelope and place it in a drawer.   It was my way of handing over this area of my life.  The next step was to go out and make the day special.  Sometimes, I would buy flowers and just give them out to people who I knew needed a lift, or make a romantic basket for a couple.   In the process of going through the day, my heart became lighter and full of hope.

I wrote several of these throughout the years.  On November 12th, 2005 I put them in a gift bag with teddy bears on it.  I presented them to my husband on our honeymoon.  They were still sealed and as we opened them one by one…..I saw that God had held each of my letters in the palm of His hand and considered them precious.

I remember one of those Valentine’s evenings when I was single that I looked at the pillow next to mine on the bed and said, “The pillow next to me is empty….but I am not alone!”  Valentine’s Day will always be a day to share a surprise with someone who needs a lift.   This continues to make my heart lighter and full of hope!

“Those who refresh others will be refreshed.” — Proverbs 11:25


Pat and Diane

More about Diane: Diane Sturmer loves her family, writing, hiking and dance. She has been in the past involved leading single parent groups during her 18 years of being a single parent and has worked at Heritage Christian Services for more than 25 years supporting people with developmental disabilities. At HCS, she leads mission groups over to Ireland and hiking groups into the Adirondacks. She is also  the director of Heart of Dance, involving people of all abilities, ages, and styles into a tapestery of beautiful dance. The next Heart of Dance show is at Nazareth College on May 1.  She has also published a devotional book called “Two are better than One” about friendship. This book is available for purchase at or

Today’s journal page was designed by Lynda Pleckan, a talented and generous artist. Here’s what she has to say about herself:  

Lynda Pleckan

Lynda Pleckan

I live in upstate New York with my hubby of oh-so-many years.  Our family includes our daughter and son-in-law, and two of the sweetest granddaughters ever!

I am the administrative assistant at my church, and absolutely adore my job.  When I’m not working, you will usually find me blogging, scrapbooking, rubber stamping, reading, knitting, and spending time with my family.   Recently I’ve been dabbling in gardening.

My paper crafts blog  includes stamping and scrap booking techniques, and cardmaking and paper crafts. I write at about life and inspirational pieces.  I also started a new blog

To download today’s journal page and write your own thoughts, please click here.

Here’s a glimpse…


Thank you, all of you, for joining us for the 40 Days of Hope project. Each day during Lent, we’ll share something about hope here — something that we pray inspires you or encourages you. We’re also planning to share free journal pages for you to download, We don’t quite have 40 yet, so if you’d like more information on submitting one, please click here.