Earlier this week a friend sent me a link to an odd and powerful performance of Amazing Grace. This song, most frequently heard at funerals (including my dear mother’s twelve years ago), rarely fails to move me, despite my bag of religious doubts. Everyone feels wretched at times and wishes to be delivered from despair.
On this as yet quiet Christmas morning I share this four and a half minute video with you. The hymn was written by British sailor and poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton (1725-1807). His naval career included the slave trade between Africa and the new world. During a severe storm at sea he underwent a religious conversion and eventually became a staunch abolitionist.
This performance is from a concert by Il Divo, four international singers assembled by the producer Simon Cowell. The singers hail from Switzerland, Spain, France and the U.S.
Il Divo is singing this hymn, written by a slave trader turned abolitionist, in Rome’s Colosseum where slaves were formerly forced to fight to the death as entertainment. A lone bagpiper midway in the song is a jarring though not unpleasant addition, and somehow in keeping with the eclectic compound of the overall event.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Best wishes for the holidays.