The Nightingale of Sweden
Jenny Lind was an incredibly talented Swedish singer nicknamed the "Swedish Nightingale." She visited Manhattan not long after the cholera epidemic had come to an end. Tickets to her performance were being sold by the none other than P.T. Barnum, and were in such demand he resorted to auctioning them off to the highest bidder. Crowds went wild for Ms. Lind, and if anyone had the right to be a true diva, it was Ms. Lind.
However, she did something quite interesting during her New York tour. Jenny Lind made a surprise stop and the New York Institute for the Blind. There she gave a free performance to the students, and here is what struck me as the most fascinating aspect of this appearance; she allowed the sight-impaired students to come to her and feel her face. That is about the most un-diva like behavior I could imagine.
Power of Music
So what does her visit have to do with Fanny Crosby, beyond the fact that Fanny was an instructor at the New York Institute for the Blind? It all comes down to one word: inspiration.
Hearing Jenny Lind's voice and feeling the emotion it brought forth in its hearers convinced Fanny of the power of music. Music, she realized had a far-reaching power beyond just entertainment. It had the power to bring issues to the forefront of the hearers minds, it had the power to change opinions and outlooks, it had the power to reach people who never picked up a book or listened to a lecture or sermon.
That was when Fanny shifted her gifts in poetry over to song. She believed in the incredible power of words, but she could only imagine what was possible when the power of words and the power of music were intentionally combined.
About.com, Jenny Lind's American Tour
Wikipedia, Fanny Crosby
Blumhofer, Edith, Her Heart Can See: The Life and Hymns of Fanny Crosby
Sara McCaslin is an engineer, a computer scientist, and a freelance writer.