On September 11, 2002, I participated in a commemoration of 9/11 at my undergraduate alma mater, Alverno College. I brought a piece to sing at the ceremony that I had heard a few years earlier as the title track on an album by baritone Nathan Gunn. It was also sung by mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves at the September 14, 2001 memorial held at National Cathedral (for whom it was written by Gene Scheer in 1998 for an event at the Smithsonian Institute).
Alverno didn’t like it. They thought it was “too patriotic” and wanted me to sing “Let there be peace on earth” instead.
I told them that I felt very strongly that this song was the appropriate piece for the event and that if they really didn’t want it, I would withdraw and send one of my high school students instead because pretty much anyone can sing “Let there be peace on earth.”
Yeah, I felt strongly about it. And I got to sing it. 😀
The lyrics of this song speak to me. They speak to me about patriotism from both the perspective of those who wave flags, who fight on battlefields, who protest, who sign petitions, and who vote.
All we’ve been given by those who came before
The dream of a nation where freedom would endure
The work and prayers of centuries have brought us to this day
What shall be our legacy? What will our children say?
CHORUS: Let them say of me I was one who believed
In sharing the blessings I received
Let me know in my heart when my days are through
America, America, I gave my best to you
Each generation from the plains to distant shore
with the gifts they were given were determined to leave more
Valiant battles foughts together – acts of conscience fought alone
These are the seeds from which America has grown. CHORUS
For those who think they have nothing to share
Who fear in their hearts there is no hero there
Know each quiet act of dignity is that which fortifies
The soul of a nation that never dies. CHORUS
(It’s also a heckuva competition winner, for those who are looking for that kind of rep.)
On this 4th of July, I think it’s just the right song for us to hear. Here’s the recording that I first heard (pre-9/11). I hope you like it!