Symphonic Selections: Hymn to the Fallen

Symphonic Selections

Like last month, I didn’t really listen to many instrumental pieces, so I wasn’t sure what I’d select for this post. But then I realised that this month’s Symphonic Selections happened to fall on Memorial Day this year, and I racked my brain for a song to share that would commemorate all the men and women who have died and served for the United States. A very fitting and perfect song hit me later. This month’s selection is a film soundtrack piece composed by one of my favourite film composers, and it’s an orchestral piece with a choral accompaniment.

“Hymn to the Fallen” is composed by John Williams for the film Saving Private Ryan. When I first saw this film, I actually couldn’t recall any of its soundtrack because I think the realistic and graphic war scenes overwhelmed my senses. It wasn’t until a few years later that my band teacher bought an arrangement of this song for her ensemble that I heard and fell in love with it.

When I stop and think about it, the melody of this piece is actually simple and easy to play. It’s not a complicated song compared to something by Rachmaninoff or Beethoven. It’s deceptively simple, but when it’s layered up with an orchestra, with the distinctive horn and the drum parts, and with a choir . . . the entire composition comes together beautifully. Everything starts off slow and steady, giving off a very solemn feel. But then it builds up to what I call the climax of the song at 3:55, when everything transforms into something beautiful and majestic. That part always send shivers down my spine and bring tears to my eyes. It’s a truly powerful section.

If you’ve never heard this song or seen Saving Private Ryan, please give this piece a try. While Memorial Day is strictly a US holiday, no matter the country, please always remember the sacrifices men and women have made for your countries in past and present times, in war and peace.


  1. I’ve never seen Saving Private Ryan. I always forget to but I know that it’s a must for movie-lovers. I ought to set aside a day for this.

    As for the piece you shared, it really is, as you described, “deceptively simple”. By itself, it tells a story and one shared by many countries that’s been through war.

    • Get ready for it to be mentally draining when you watch the film! I know I cried a bucket or two XD;

      The piece definitely tells a story and can be shared by many countries. Thanks for pointing it out!

  2. This is a perfect pick for Symphonic Selections! Saving Private Ryan is a great movie. I agree, I can’t recall any symphonic soundtrack like this one! All I remembered were war scenes as well XD. This piece brings peace, and very fitting for Memorial Day :).

    • Yes! I was too busy paying attention to all the action on the screen to recall any of its soundtracks. Glad I’m not the only one!

  3. I can’t get into that movie for some reason but I’ve heard of it <3 Great track!

    • It’s not for everyone, for sure, but it’s still a great film!

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