Tuesday 20 February 2018

Life can be as sweet as a New Year song

A children's concert gave a glimpse into the small everyday miracle of the possible, writes Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O'Connor

SINCE it's only you and me, I'll be honest, okay? The days around New Year's Eve aren't my favourite time of the year. I don't know why it is. The enforced jollity, maybe. The feeling of being always at the wrong party. Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Take it from me. Sometimes the short answer is 'yes'.

But the other evening, here in New York, I went along with my wife and youngest child to hear our older lad singing in the choir at a little music school he was attending. I wasn't in great form. I was stressed and tired and I'd recently been floored by a bout of chronic bronchitis. As with the rest of us, there'd been anxieties on my mind all throughout the year, and though Christmas can be a time of peacefulness and calm, it can also be a time of old memories and ghosts, a vein of Irish sadness running through the tinsel, somehow.

Well, the world is a kinder place than most of us know. To see kids playing music is a thing that would melt a stone's heart. There were jazz bands improvising on Christmas carols, there were adorable kids playing piano solos. And there was the sense music always brings, that life can be sweet, drifting through the room like the aroma of a Christmas tree. And this being New York, the celebration was broad. There was Jewish klezmer music for Hanukkah, and African music for Kwanzaa, the uniting of different cultures and religious perspectives on how the coming of a new year is celebrated. It's the best thing about New York, how it functions like a kind of Venn diagram, with different languages and backgrounds, constantly shifting, but an area of values held in common.

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