March 26th, 1941
Thank you very much for your nice letter. I am very much pleased to see that your writing has improved such a great deal I didn't recognize it at first: wondered who was writing to me. But I also see that your spelling is as atrocious as ever! You really will have to improve there.
So you too are going in for singing: I am very glad to hear it. I only hope that you can get as much enjoyment from music as I have. And let me give you a tip right now. If you are genuinely interested in music, start right now to learn a little about the history of music and musicians. Learn to recognize and identify a piece by its name and composer. You have no idea what an interesting world of people it opens up to you. That is how I have met so many of my staunchest friends over here, simply through our joint interest in music. At present I am in a much happier position than you for I am so close to London that I can run up there nearly every Sunday afternoon to hear the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It is a wonderful experience to be able to actually see - as well as hear, a famous orchestra playing or a famous soloist singing or playing. I have seen two world famous pianists and a famous soprano - Joan Hammond. She has a wonderful voice - so rich and clear and full: not like these opera sopranos who shriek far more than they sing. It was a pleasure just to hear her singing: completely at ease. The music just seemed to flow from her mouth without any visible effort on her part. That is the essence of good singing: as perhaps you will find out someday.
I hope you were not too nervous. I can still remember my first attempt. My knees absolutely refused to stay still inside those huge boots and consequently, they rattled like peas in a dried pod. How did you come out? And let me tell you right now that Claire Henry would have to improve a very great deal from when I heard him last before he would be a serious threat to anybody. That is one thing you must try to forget: the reputation that anyone of your opponents may have. It is one of the most unnerving things to have to sing on the same program with a person who enjoys a reputation for good singing. But don't let it worry you. Just give your very best and you will find that soon you too will have a reputation as good or as bad as any one else's. I do hope you will be able to cultivate and train your voice. I only wish I had the opportunity now. Mine has just about reached its full maturity and is much fuller and richer now than when I left home...but it needs training and practice badly. There is so little opportunity for any artistic development in the army! They seem to do everything in their power to strangle all signs of artistry in you. They give you no possible means of outlet at all. At times I grow positively sick of it all and call myself all manner of vile things: and then I feel much better for a time. At other times when this doesn't work, I go to a friend's house and sit and listen to his gramophone for hours. I play all types of music but mostly classical. He has a huge number of records and among them he has about 25 by Paul Robeson: the great negro basso. My favourite is "Blue Sunday". That - by the way, is a hobby that I would commend to any one who appreciates music. If you have enough money you may occassionally pick up a few good records. Start a musical library. It will help you immensely and you will greatly enjoy doing it. I am going to start to do it when I settle down at last. I have already started collecting a few good books. Of course they are only cheap editions but what does it matter what the cover looks like? It is what is written upon the pages inside that counts.
And now I want you to realize right now that the cities over here are not as badly damaged as the Germans would have you believe. That is propaganda and the purpose of propaganda is to present a minimum of truth with a maximum of falsehood in favour of the person issuing the propaganda. The Germans want you to believe that the cities over here are wiped off the face of the earth and of course, if you believe what they say, you are fighting half their battle for them. You can form no idea how huge the cities over here are. You know how big Vancouver is. Well, picture to yourself 200 cities - every one bigger than Vancouver, and some 4, 5, 10 or even 20 times bigger; packed into a tiny area stretching from Vancouver to Penticton and south to the border and you have some idea of English cities. You must know too that the damage done by even the largest bomb is very insignificant when compared to the size of a whole city. Do you know that although I am thirty miles from Trafalgar Square in the heart of London right now, I have only to go about 10 miles north of here and I come to the outskirts of London. Maybe you can guess from that the size of London and see how utterly impossible it would be to even attempt to wipe that huge place from "the face of the earth". It would take 10,000 planes at least a week of continuous bombing to drop enough bombs to completely destroy a city the size of Winnipeg or Vancouver. The most we have ever had over London at one time - even in the peak of the daylight raids last fall, is 200. So you see how utterly fantastic the German claims are. Granted they have done a huge amount of damage, but nothing to what they claim.
Yes, I see Deg Simmonds and Charlie Blower nearly every day. Charlie is married you know. Yes, Bob has had all the excitement of this war so far, but I have seen some pretty horrible sights too. They are all recorded in my diary.
Well, goodbye for now Burt. Write again soon and let me see as much improvement in you spelling as there has been in your writing!