The Lyre Sounds at the 2018 Esperanto North American Summer Course

Sheila Devlin at the Esperanto North American Summer Course. To hear her sing and play, click here and go to minute 8:47.

By Sheila Devlin, Marquette, MI

My sporadic lyre playing is most often in solitude which seems to disqualify it as a tool for making memories. For me, good lyre memories began way back with Resonare 2007-2008. This past July 2018, I made an exception by taking my lyre to the North American Summer Course (Norda Amerika Somera Kurso = NASK) in Raleigh, NC, where Esperanto speakers from all over gather to learn and enjoy each others’ company. My thought was to share the melody I know so well, which in folk tradition begins with “The water is wide, I cannot get o’er." English words for this melody I found in a Unitarian Universalist hymn book and they go like this:

“If I should speak with bravest fire, and have the gift to all inspire, but have not love my words are vain, as sounding brass and hopeless gain.

If I should give all I possess, and striving so my love profess, but not be given by love within, the profit soon wears strangely thin.

Oh, Spirit come, our hearts control, our spirits long to be made whole, let inward love guide every deed, by this we worship and are freed.”

This of course reminded me of singing Channa Seidenberg’s beautiful arrangement for chorus and which has much extended text.

I knew there would be an entertainment evening as a finale to our Esperanto studies. I knew that my voice and lyre might not project sufficiently in the auditorium. I went anyway to submit my entry for consideration by the “Lord High Great Auditioner” (Such humorous reference indicates only my tentative approach to the affair). SHE, Alena, was as gentle and encouraging as could be. There were just the two of us in the auditorium. When my less than two minute song was finished, she came down the aisle with glistening eyes and generous praise for having heard one of her favorite melodies with Esperanto words.

The freedom we enjoy by releasing lyre tones a certain way and the freedom we display when choosing Esperanto as an egalitarian form of communication are relevant forms of expression available to us all. Both expressions give me joy.


Your next summer Lyre conference sounds terrific! While you will be creating fantastic sounds on all kinds of instruments, I will be using my “bell rods,” as I call them, to accompany a poem inspired by paintings from the famous Japanese artist, Hokusai. It is called “Hokusai Says” by Roger Keyes. Now that I’ve got my Esperanto version to rehearse, I will start striking tones each time the poem reads “Li dir” which means “he says.” What Hokusai says basically is “Let Life Live Through You.” I fantasize that there could be a whole orchestra of you accompanying this poem. Your Lyre conference is from July st through July 5th and the Esperanto NASK 2019 starts June 31st and finishes July 7th. This seeming conflict occurs most, if not every, year. I’ll be with you in spirit because of the inspiration you give.