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.