Did You Hear It Yet This Season?

Written by Mike Shapiro | | December 24, 2015

Did you go to a children’s holiday concert this year? I used to go every year when my kids were in school, but haven’t been for years. I miss it. There’s something about the hopefulness in their faces and in their voices. Especially when they sing that one song — the one they save till the very end of the concert.

The past few years, I’ve been playing and singing at a dinner service for the homeless. Last night I wanted to include some songs of the season, so I spent my prep time looking through my catalog of holiday music. And there it was, right in there with all the familiar Christmas carols and the pop tunes we hear on the radio this time of year.

Here’s what I found about its history:

Written in 1955 by a husband-and-wife songwriting team, Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller, “Let There Be Peace On Earth” was first introduced to a group of teenagers selected from their high schools to attend a weeklong retreat in California. The young people were from different religious, racial, cultural and economic backgrounds, brought together to experiment with creating understanding and friendship through education, discussion groups, and living and working together in a camp situation.

Sy Miller wrote in his own words what happened:

“One summer evening in 1955, a group of 180 teenagers of all races and religions, meeting at a workshop high in the California mountains locked arms, formed a circle and sang a song of peace. They felt that singing the song, with its simple basic sentiment – ‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,’ helped to create a climate for world peace and understanding.”

Musically, it is an unusual piece. Neither a hymn nor a carol nor a pop song, the combination of its simple but powerful lyric and anthemic melody line creates a transcendent effect that lingers long after you’ve heard it.

It still gets to me, especially the second verse:

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

It’s been recorded by many famous artists over the 60 years since it was written. But somehow the full impact is still felt best when sung by a children’s’ choir.

Did you hear it this year? If not, you can click below to hear what it sounded like when performed during the Pope’s visit to the Ground Zero Memorial.

Best wishes for a Happy and Peaceful Holiday!