Dec 222007

brown padded envelope
Yesterday I received a lovely Christmas gift. It came in a plain, padded brown envelope from the Nottingham Stake Choir in England. They gathered themselves together in a church classroom, and sang for me so I could hear “just how good [my] music sounds with an English accent.” Indeed. (I sometimes mourn that we Americans don’t emulate English diction enough in our choirs, but that’s a lecture for a different post.)

The choir performed beautifully–they even had dynamics. Then came the soloist at the end, Emma Boone singing “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day.” That was when the tears started. She had a beautiful voice, but that wasn’t what inspired the tears. She performed flawlessly… like an angel (a British angel at that), but that wasn’t it either.

The thing that made her performance so touching was hearing the words “Peace on earth” sung in an accent other than my own.

The words to “I Heard the Bells…” were written by Longfellow to express the despair and subsequent resurgence of hope felt during the American civil war. And, because poetry is so universally applicable, they might also aptly express the despair and resurgent hope of every people, everywhere who have known war and conflict.

I listened to the words, “Peace on earth… peace on earth…” repeated in her delightful English accent and wished–how I wished!–that I could hear those words sung in every accent that adorns human speech. I wish I could hear them in a German accent, and a Korean accent, and an Arabic accent, and that every nation on earth would sing them together, and laugh together at the cacophony produced by differing vowel shapes, and slap each other on the back and…

How I wish.

Thank you, to Emma and the Nottingham Stake Choir. I wish you all, and everyone, everywhere, in every beautiful accent, peace on earth.

Sep 212007

Wow. I’ve been blindsided. The week of my daughter’s wedding reception, I was called to be the new ward Relief Society president. Since our former president had been in place for just a year, this was a bit unexpected. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, the Relief Society is the women’s organization of the LDS Church. It’s responsible for the temporal and spiritual welfare of all the women in our local congregation. Heading up the organization takes basically all your waking hours, all your emotional and spiritual resources, and requires eating a lot of chocolate.)

After the first week in this new calling, one very kind man in our congregation (who obviously understands the learning curve involved) asked me if I felt like I’d been “drinking from a fire hose.” Yep. Pretty good analogy. I’ve spent most of my life working with the children and teenagers, and I have no idea what I’m doing.

How the new responsibilites will affect my songwriting habit remains to be seen. Probably a whole lot more songs about loving and serving others. (I wonder if that’s what the Lord had in mind?) At any rate, I’ll continue to write the things I feel (it aches when I don’t) but please don’t count on me for specific offerings for awhile.

Aug 172007

Yesterday was a sad day at our house. Our dog Gloria, who was in her 14th year, had to be euthanized at the vet’s office. She was old, and it was time… but oh my. Dennis had to take her, brave man, since I couldn’t have done it.

I wonder, is love for a pet a good inspiration for music?

Over the years quite a few people have written requesting songs for funerals. It’s not the kind of song I usually write. At my funeral, I don’t want anyone singing about crossing bars–though it’s a lovely poem. I want people to sing my favorite songs. I want a choir (the Tabernacle Choir if you can get them… okay, nevermind) to sing something glorious and grand, something huge and wonderful that fills the available space and shakes you in your seat. I’ll be in the front row, watching your diction and hollering “Blend! Blend!”

Still, I wonder, is love for a pet an acceptable inspiration for music? When we’ve lost family members or friends, the emotions have been rather too deep for me to express in song. Maybe this gentler loss will be something I can work with.