I recently returned from a one week preview visit of Switzerland, where our Tour Choir boys will be going this June for their 35th anniversary, two week concert tour. While there, I was able to attend a concert at the Zurich Opera House, which featured the music of Leonard Bernstein. It was magnificent and all in attendance were reminded of his immortal words immediately after 9/11, “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
I have noticed that 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 we were children, we liked to think miraculous things can happen when we sleep and dream. Unfortunately, now as adults, we know that isn’t really possible.
But I have a dream anyway. It’s not a holiday dream but one for our profession. I dream we, as choral musicians, will become agents of change for good in our communities and in our world. We will bring together people and children of all ages. 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 always 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 team-building 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.
One line in particular from a song I sang as a boy strikes me as quite appropriate for this blog: “let there be Peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” If we want change, it must begin with us. If we want acceptance . . . I must do it and we must do it. If we see injustice, we must step up to make it right. Peace and kindness and compassion must begin with me and each of us. 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 did, thirty-five years ago with this organization of simply ordinary boys who love to sing.
Sing this new 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, laugh at the silly songs and cry at the sad songs. Let the music bring you together. And let it begin with you – and let it begin with me.
I wish Peace for all of you as we come into this new year, 2017.