I was fresh out of high school and in France on the Fourth of July 1985. I was touring Europe with a group of other graduates. We were singing our way through historic cathedrals, parks and town squares, performing in a crooked path from Stuttgart, Germany, to London in the summer. But on that day -- Independence Day -- we were homesick. We wanted to go to a picnic, to watch fireworks, to celebrate something together as a group. Even in the midst of the crowds of Paris, we felt a little lonely and uprooted. That evening, we performed in the Cathedral of Notre Dame. We had joked about finishing with "The Star-Spangled Banner," but the vicar was adamant that we were to sing only sacred songs.
After our performance, we paused in the shadow of the building. A man and his son stopped in front of our group. They were from England, on holiday, and had heard one of the songs in which I had a solo.
"You sounded brilliant," said the boy. "Really fine."
I thanked them, and said it was hard to sound bad in a church with such wonderful acoustics.
"The echo was incredible," said the father. "You must love hearing your own voice come back at you like that."
I nodded, and saw my friends behind them, beginning to leave. We had bought a box of sparklers, and planned a celebration. But the father was not finished. "You know that sound waves never stop," he was saying. "They continue to echo -- just more quietly."
"Someday," he said, "we'll have the technology to separate sound waves. Some future generation will be able to hear your song again."
I laughed and said I'd have to talk to my agent about residuals.
"I hope they can separate sound waves properly or history will assume you sang at the coronation of a French king, or at a martyr's beheading," he chuckled. His son, not understanding but not knowing what else to do, laughed with him. "Maybe Stephan will hear you again someday, or his children, or his children's children."
It was much later that evening that I thought about my voice, my American voice, bouncing back and forth between the dazzling colored windows of the cathedral. I pictured it ricocheting off the stone walls, and lobbing itself over the rubbed wooden pews.
And suddenly, it did not bother me that I was in France and my parents were in Pennsylvania, probably watching a fine display of fireworks. I felt as if I were practically home.
Sandy Wieber lives in Baltimore.
MY BEST SHOT
Old and new in the Andes
John and Janet Hoolachan, Ellicott City
"My husband took this photo on a side street in the Andes town of Otavolo, Ecuador. He asked the men if he could take their pictures and, as you can see, one posed more formally than the other. We think it's a good representation of the old and the new within the indigenous Otavolo culture."
Rita Gribbell, Havre de Grace
"In April, my husband, Jim, and I took a brief trip to London. After visiting Buckingham Palace we headed for Whitehall. As we cut through St. James's Park, we happened upon a wonderful view of our destination."
Bryan Weeks, Pasadena
"We highly recommend Maui as one of the best spots in the world to view sunrises and sunsets. What a romantic trip! With enough shops, art galleries and boutiques to satisfy every woman and plenty of water and sports activities to satisfy the men, Maui is the perfect vacation spot for any couple!"
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Pub Date: 07/04/99