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There is Still a Light that Shines on Me: A High School Latin Teacher Shares the Power and Depth of the Song “Let It Be”

There is Still a Light that Shines on Me: A High School Latin Teacher Shares the Power and Depth of the Song “Let It Be”

There is Still a Light that Shines on Me: A High School Latin Teacher Shares the Power and Depth of the Song “Let It Be”
April 12
07:34 2021


There is Still a Light that Shines on Me: A High School Latin Teacher Shares the Power and Depth of the Song “Let It Be”
by Dr. Keith Massey

A Bit of Background

When I became a Latin teacher, I was eager to find ways to make the subject as interesting and entertaining as possible for my students. Unlike other languages, which can draw upon popular modern music, nothing of the sort existed for Latin.

I decided therefore that it was my mission to create Latin language songs that could help my students learn in a dynamic and engaging fashion.

But I did not know, all those years ago, that a global pandemic would eventually lead me to express through the song “Let It Be” my heartfelt tribute to the Beatles themselves and also to my profession in these “times of trouble.”

Getting Started

Growing up, I listened to the Beatles constantly. Their music was the soundtrack of my youth. So it was natural that my efforts to create Latin language cover songs to augment my curriculum would focus largely on these well-known songs.

Since I was about to begin a unit teaching basic greetings in Latin, the song “Hello, Goodbye” was a perfect place to start. The words Hello and Goodbye are repeated multiple times in the course of the song, allowing the student singing along to memorize with little effort the Latin equivalents of these (Salvē! Valē!).

I wanted the production quality of these songs to be high enough to honor the originals. And so I bought a professional microphone. I spent hundreds of hours teaching myself how to make the instrumental tracks in Garageband. And my first effort was successful—to date it has 42,000 views on Youtube. I was additionally happy to learn that Latin teachers and students throughout the world were using it in their classrooms.

Making More

From there, I focused on songs that might include important basic vocabulary and grammar. I produced Latin language covers of “And I Love Her” (Et eam amo) and “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” (Visne Secretum Scire?). And I was humbled by feedback from students and teachers alike that these songs were helpful to them.

My cover version of “From Me to You” (A Me Tibi) included a video tribute to the late UK Labour MP Eddie O’Hara, who earlier in his career had also been a high school Latin teacher and translated Beatles lyrics into Latin for his students’ enjoyment.

In February of 2020, not knowing how the world was about to change, I released a Latin language cover of Yesterday (Heri). And looking back, it was eerily prophetic that I would release that song in that moment. “Yesterday. All my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay.”

March, 2020: Quarantine Begins

And then the pandemic struck. And in the quarantine that followed, all of us experienced the fear and the isolation and the uncertainty.

Educators were told that we needed overnight to figure out how to continue teaching through online platforms. What I love most about my job—the positive exchange of energy in the classroom as I share with students my passion and enthusiasm for my subject— was gone. In its place were Google Meet or Zoom sessions which allowed us to continue the instruction, but nothing close to the connection.

The technical skills I had learned while making my cover song videos actually served me well in quarantine. I turned all of my lessons week by week into pre-recorded content. This was an enormous time commitment for me, but I felt it gave my students a valuable resource, especially since connectivity issues constantly plague both teachers and students alike. I would still always be available to them in Google Meet during our class period to answer questions, but my lesson was there in video form to be reviewed however many times they needed.

Despite all the hardships that we were facing, I was so enormously proud of my students as we were going through those first few weeks of quarantine. And it is important to remember that, when it all began, we thought it would be only a few weeks.

I decided to make a new cover song to somehow speak to all that we had been through so far during that Spring of 2020. I wanted this song and its music video to give Latin students throughout the world a personal message of hope from their teachers. And so I invited fellow Latin teachers through social media to send me a short clip of themselves waving and smiling to their students. In May of 2020, I released a Latin language cover of “Here Comes the Sun” (Ecce Venit Sol), which expressed that even though we had been through a “long, cold, lonely winter,” there was hope for the future. A number of American teachers, four from the UK, and one Australian submitted videos that I laced together in the video alongside the song itself.


Quarantine Becomes a Long and Winding Road

That school year ended and in many ways the new one that began in September of 2020 was even more challenging. We were back in the building in my district, wearing masks, being temperature checked as we arrived, and teaching to some students who elected to be in the room with us, but a majority who were still choosing to be all virtual. The juggling act of trying to teach Latin to these two different groups, to give each as equal an amount of instruction as I could manage, has been simply exhausting.

I once again decided that the only way for me to express all I was feeling and enduring was through another Beatles cover song. And so I went through the albums, looking for the one that could speak to us now.

Let It Be: Fiat

And I realized, no song could possible do a better job of capturing the current moment of time than “Let It Be.”

As some may know, the song was the last single the Beatles would release, which already gives it a bittersweet significance.

Let me now describe what this powerful song means to me in the context of the pandemic.


“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”

The song is so sweetly somber, and it therefore acknowledges our continued pain. But in the message, those words of wisdom, Let It Be, we still find hope to press forward.

“And in my hour of darkness … And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer.”

There will be an answer in this hour of darkness. And we broken hearted people are closer to the end of this nightmare than to the beginning.

“For though they may be parted…”

We all likely have people we haven’t seen since this thing began. And we may also have people we have lost. I lost a sister (not from COVID) in December and grieve for her and the fact that we have not yet been able to hold a public in-person memorial.

“And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me, shine until tomorrow, let it be.”

This is the lyric I cherish the most at this time. We are tired. We are empty. But we also know we have gotten through this thing day by day only with the shared strength of those we love and who love us. We just need to shine love and energy upon one another until tomorrow. And then do that again every day until we get our world back.

“I wake up to the sound of music…”

And without music and the life energy with which it fills us, this all would have been impossible to bear.

I paired my musical cover of this beautiful, poignant, and, I almost feel now, prophetic song with a video montage of me going through my typical day as a teacher in pandemic. I am singing the song as I get ready for school. As I leave, I pick up my keys and my school ID. But I pause a moment as I also pick up a mask, which is a symbol of pandemic. I put on my mask when I arrive at school to be temperature checked. I am in my building in the morning, then I go home for afternoon sessions which are all virtual. And to convey how this cycle seems endless, the next day, I wake up and I start it all over again.

And In The End

On a certain level, this has been the worst year I have ever endured as a teacher. But I also believe in years to come we teachers will look back on this as our finest hour.

Out of love for our students, we have done our best. We are “Front Line Workers” and accepted the risk that teaching back in our buildings entailed. I will share that I am now fully vaccinated. But that fact, and the relative comfort it does now provide me, only acutely reminds me of the anxiety I first felt walking back in that building in September.

I dedicated this video specifically to the Senior Class at Leonia High School (Leonia, NJ, USA) where I teach. These young people have been robbed of what should have been the best year of their lives, but have nevertheless gone through it all with patience and grace. And I dedicated it generally to all who as parents, students, educators, staff, and administrators have struggled through it together.

When all of this is over, we must never take for granted how precious everything was. When I once again stand in a room full of students, not wearing a mask, I must not forget how much it hurt to lose that. And all of us, let us cling in hope for that time soon when we can meet and see each other’s smiles and embrace in love and friendship once again.

Let it be…


For more videos, click links below:

Hello, Goodbye

And I Love Her

Do You Want to Know a Secret?

From Me to You


Here Comes the Sun

Let It Be

About Author

Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

Martin A Nethercutt is a writer, singer, producer and loves music. Creative Director at McCartney Studios Editor-in-Chief at McCartney Times Creator-in-Chief at Geist Musik President (title) at McCartney Multimedia, Inc. Went to Albert-Schweitzer-Schule Kassel Lives in Playa del Rey From Kassel, Germany Married to Ruth McCartney

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