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America Supports You: Trio Finds Poignancy in Civil War Carol

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2005 – A Dallas-based band has looked to the Civil War to honor today's servicemembers fighting in the global war on terrorism.

TrueHeart, an adult contemporary/urban folk band, was invited to perform at a Christmas benefit for a local hospital last year. But the band's trio of siblings disagreed on what carols to play.

Ross Vick said that he and his brother, Patrick, and sister, Karen Vick Cavazos, couldn't settle on what Christmas songs to play. So he wrote three songs, including a new arrangement of the 19th century hymn, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem-turned-hymn about how the Civil War affected his life and his family had long been one of Vick's favorites, he said. In doing research for the new arrangement, however, he found the familiar lyrics sung in church were not the originals, which he later used in his arrangement.

"I had always liked the words to that (song)," he said, adding that by the time he found the original lyrics, Operation Iraqi Freedom was in full bloom. "I just thought it was so poignant that those words that were written over 140 years ago were just as germane today as they were during the American Civil War. At least in my mind they were."

The original poem reminded the siblings of their ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War and every conflict the United States has been involved in, Vick said. He added that his cousin was among the first with "boots on the ground" in Baghdad in when U.S. troops went into Iraq in 2003.

Composed on Christmas Day 1864, Longfellow's poem, originally titled "Christmas Bells," contained seven stanzas and detailed the sense of despair the Civil War created for the author. It ends with church bells ringing, giving the author hope for peace. In 1872, John Baptiste Calkin rearranged five stanzas, omitting the two with Civil War references, and set them to music to create the most familiar version of the carol.

Vick said he appreciated the parallel between what Longfellow observed in 1864 and what is occurring today. Families are enduring separations from loved ones and some -- like Longfellow, whose son suffered debilitating injuries fighting for his country -- are dealing with severely injured loved ones.

A recent re-recording of the TrueHeart arrangement is more country-sounding than the group's first recorded version, which was more "pop," Vick said. He added that the newest version is just a small token of the group's esteem and appreciation for the sacrifice the servicemembers make on behalf of all Americans.

"For our men and women in uniform, there are a bunch of us out here who care about what they're doing and pray for peace and pray that (you) all get home safe and sound," Vick said.

Meanwhile, he added, TrueHeart's goal is to perform live for deployed troops.

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Related Sites:
America Supports You
"I Heard the Bells" by TrueHeart


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