Sunrise of hope

Posted on February 1, 2009
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            The day after the inauguration of US President Barak Hussein Obama, Alice McLerran sent the following message to Willa Mavis, a friend of mine. Willa forwarded it to me.

            I thought her words and the Sunshineccc08 video were a beautiful expression of the mood of the throngs at the ceremony. Alice gave me permission to post it here.


            I  was explaining to a friend from another country why the theme of “Simple Gift”  (also used with different lyrics as “The Lord of the Dance,” woven into a beautiful piece of chamber music offered just before Obama’s speech, seemed so wonderfully appropriate to offer at the climax of yesterday’s historic inauguration,.

             I realize that he, and friends in many other non-American cultures, may not even know the tune. Not every American familiar with the tune may know both sets of lyrics.

             When I looked up a recorded version of the music to which I could send a link I found a video that was ideal.

            Watching it brought back the elation I felt as I watched the inauguration.  I’d like to share both its presentation of the music, and the two sets of lyrics, as many people as possible.

             I’m continuing to rejoice that we now have a new president, obviously, and hope that most of you on this list rejoice with me.  Here is the music I want to share, along with a series of sunrise images.  It was created and posted on You Tube by Sunshineccc08


            Here are the lyrics written in 1848 by  a Shaker Elder, Joseph Brackett, to sing along with the tune for dancing that he had composed. I thought of them on that day when so many of us rejoiced that a candidate in whom we were placing high hopes had “come down where [he] ought to be” —

‘Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free,
’tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.


When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
 ‘Til by turning, turning we come round right

            The “Lord of the Dance” lyrics of Sydney Carter, an English songwriter, were first published in 1963.  They use the “dance” as a religious metaphor, and are sometimes offered with the tune in hymnals.

            For years the song has been sung by a member of a Morris Dance troup at the annual Christmas Revels  in Sanders Theater at Harvard, around the time of the winter solstice. The song is used just before intermission, and as it reaches the end performers appear among the audience, pulling them dancing into  the refrain into the high-ceilinged hall  where even those normally reserved find themselves dancing joyously  hand in hand,   continue to sing the refrain over and over, and stopping only when all are out of breath.

            Obama is obviously a mere mortal and the newer words below are not obvioiusly relevant to yesterday’s turn in history. I think, though, that yesterday most of us listening to the music, and to the speech that followed it, long to follow our new president into a future where he wishes to lead us — a dance of hope that could lead to us to better times not just in our own land, but throughout a planet now darkened by divisiveness and problems of all sorts.  
I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:

  Dance then, wherever you may be
  I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
  And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be
  And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He!

I danced for the scribe & the pharisee
But they would not dance & they wouldn’t follow me
I danced for fishermen, for James & John
They came with me & the Dance went on:

I danced on the Sabbath & I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped & they stripped & they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body & they thought I’d gone
But I am the Dance & I still go on!

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that’ll never, never die!
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in Me –
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

A hug to each friend and family member to whom I send this message —



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