To me, this is the sound of New York as much as the honking of taxi horns, the rumble of the subway and the hiss of steam escaping through manhole covers:
My oldest son used to sing with YPC, and I would have to say that parting with it was high up on my list of the hardest things about leaving New York. Given how painfully long that list was, this tells you just how highly I thought of the chorus and how much it meant to our family. I literally well up with tears when I view this video and hear this song, because it reminds me of a time when our son was developing his innate vocal talent in a rigorous, disciplined and challenging way while being part of something bigger than himself. YPC is truly a powerful and unique force for bringing together children and teens of diverse backgrounds and empowering them individually and collectively. Nuñez teaches his hundreds (perhaps thousands by now) of proteges a lasting lesson by constantly and consistently enlisting them in the creation of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Upon moving to California, my son stopped singing for three years. He auditioned and was accepted to a well regarded local children’s choir, but opted not to join. Instead, he decided to focus on playing the flute in his school band program. Last year, as a freshman in high school, he dropped band and took up singing again by enrolling in choir as an elective course. It turned out not be much like YPC (his teacher abhorred music composed by contemporary, popular composers like Papoulis and loaded the syllabus with lots of medieval church music), and my son decided choir – at least this one – was not his thing. So now he is back to not singing (except in the shower).
My son’s announcement that he would not continue with choir was definitely not music to my ears. A mother who recognizes a God-given ability in her child naturally wants him to develop it to its greatest potential. But she also desires to raise a child who learns to make his own decisions and to live with their consequences. Hey, I’ve read The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel. What’s a Yiddishe Mamme to do?
What this one did is to remember that I had at one time asked my son to program Give Us Hope as the ringtone for cell phone. I loved the song and wanted it to carry it with me to regularly be reminded of the joy I felt watching and listening to my son sing with his fellow choristers. (And besides, it’s a catchy tune and I wanted a unique ring tone that would distinguish itself amid the cacophony of a zillion other ringing phones in Manhattan).
So, I recently sang the song’s lyrics to myself (sparing others from hearing my voice which is far less melodic than my son’s) and took them as sound advice and good guidance.
Listen to the sound of my voice
Can you feel the beat of my heart?
Listen to the questions I have.
Listen to me.
Its all very simple to see what we need.
Give us hope, my voice is calling.
Can you see? Look in my eyes.
Can you feel? My hand is reaching.
Give us hope and we’ll show you the way.
Listen to the sound of my voice.
Can you feel the beat of my heart?
Listen to the questions I have. Listen to me.
We are the future. Help us believe .
Take my hand. Now look in my eyes,
Tell me what you see.
Listen to the sound of my voice… It’s not only my son’s singing voice I need to hear, but also the one telling me that he wants to branch out and try new things in high school, to take different electives and figure out what else he is good at. It’s the voice reassuring me that just because he is not singing now, it does not mean that he will never sing again.
Give us hope and we’ll show you the way. He and our other sons, as they all grow up, most undoubtedly will.
© 2009 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.
Tags: Francisco Nunez, Give Us Hope, Jewish parenting, Jim Papoulis, New York, parenting, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Wendy Mogel, Young People's Chorus of New York City, Youth choirs, youth choruses