As midnight neared on New Year’s, the CD player changed its tune. It churned and sputtered, then the Cat Stevens tune began.
It was at the stroke of midnight that “Peace Train” played out into the room.One by one, voices chimed in with the lyrics.
Thirty people, friends, were soon singing in unison. Soon with gusto, not frenzy. Soon with all the heart and commitment the song evokes.Four minutes of transformation.
The year 2010 began at my home near the western shore of Lake Winnipeg. Thirty people — a motley crew, shaped of writers, singer-songwriters, construction workers, sad bureaucrats and wannabe politicians. Origins and inclinations withered as Stevens’s memorable lyrics filled the living room.
You can’t embellish “Peace Train”. But 30 voices can bring its spirit to life.
It was very much like a new beginning. It underlined the hope that a new year brings.
On the tips of our minds, one can only guess, would have been the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, unspoken though that was.
The amplification those voices gave to the spirit of peace will never leave me.
It was magical.
Later, people remarked about what a great party it had been. I had served turkey and all the fixings. Guests brought quiche and other goodies. Many talked about the food and the conviviality.
Few said a word about the song. But we all knew that — that singing, the invocation that went with it — there had been a moment when we all melded.
Usually, I avoid New Year’s eve parties. They always bring to mind the night I was caught at such a party in a strange suburb I rarely visited. I knew only the fellow who’d invited me. As midnight neared, I cast about for a hiding spot. I didn’t want to be pecked by any of the older women who were hunting for love and a night’s companionship.
The New Year’s eve of 2010 changed that.
I learned to appreciate my friends.
We laughed, we sang. And we hoped, perhaps prayed, for peace.
For a few minutes, peace seemed achievable.
On Remembrance Day, my Dad, a junior high school teacher, often read (did not sing it, thankfully) a song written by Ed McCurdy and made popular by Burl Ives. I heard a tape recording of Dad’s rendering which he gave over the school’s PA system. His voice quavered now and then.
Dad had fought on the Burma Road, as they called it, during the Second World War. He was a bombardier. I expect he killed many people he never saw.
He developed a passion for peace. It was not surprising that he dreamed that all the world leaders who had gathered in that great hall agreed to never fight again.
“Last night I had the strangest dream, I’d never dreamed before. I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war.”
My father closed: “Let that be our hope and dream as well.”