“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” Leonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990)
Have you ever noticed the best holiday stories portray some sort of dream? From the ballet, “The Nutcracker” to all of the many incarnations of Dickens, “A Christmas Carol” someone is always sleeping and having a dream. There is also the ‘alternate universe’ version of that dream in holiday movies such as “It’s A Wonderful Life,” giving a slightly different spin to the idea. When the main characters wake up or get back to their own universe, all their holiday hopes and wishes seem to have come true. Problems are solved and they are happier. Even Clement Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nicholas” has a ‘long winter’s nap’ as part of the action. When I was a boy, I liked to think miraculous things can happen when we sleep and dream. Unfortunately as an adult, I know that is seldom true.
But I have a dream anyway. It’s not a holiday dream but one for our profession. I dream we, as choral educators of young children [especially our boys], will become agents of change for good in our communities and in our world. We will bring together children of all faiths and economic backgrounds, no matter who they are and what they believe, into our choirs. If you can sing what we need you to sing, you are in our choirs, no matter the color of your skin or what you look like.
I dream choirs of all sorts of singers are welcomed and respected into our choral community. Instead of saying, “there’s an app for that,” we will say, “there’s a choir for that” when someone asks us if their particular need is represented in a choir, because there will be a choir.
Choirs of senior citizens as well as children will sing together, bringing together experience and enthusiasm. There will be choirs in the workplace, encouraging fellowship and teambuilding by singing together. There will be Hospice choirs and prison choirs and choirs for those affected by cancer or Alzheimer’s. Singing will unite us. Perhaps, when we sing with someone who is different from us, we will understand a little bit more about them. And we won’t be afraid of their differences because we will know them because we sing with them. In my dream, there will be choirs to comfort those touched by violence. And we will do our best to be an agent for peace in our own communities and beyond.
There was a song when I was growing up that was very popular. I sang it as a solo, in my youth choir at church, in my school chorus and caroling with a church youth group. I heard it not too long ago shopping at the mall, on their piped in music. “Let there be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me”.
One line in particular from the song strikes me as quite appropriate, that if we want change, it must begin with us. If we want acceptance, we must do it. If we see injustice, we must step up to make it right. Peace and kindness and compassion must begin with us . . . it must begin with me! There is no need to wait until someone else does what we believe to be right. We can make the world a better place by taking that first, small step. My dream can be a reality if I begin it. And so I do.
Sing this year with your choirs and your families and your friends. Let differences go and reach for the common, shared values you do have together. Make Peace with those you love as well as those you don’t love. Cherish the old songs and laugh at the silly songs. Let the music bring you together. And let it begin with you.
I wish Peace for our world and each of you this 2018 . . . may it be so.