The melody and words for the song "Twenty Six Bells" are a gift from God. During the weeks that transpired between the Sandy Hook tragedy and January 13, 2013, Lloyd Solon had trouble sleeping. He was constantly awakened by an angelic choir that kept singing “Twenty six bells will always ring at Christmas.” During the weeks that passed the choir became louder and the song became fuller. The presentation played over and over in his head until he finally had to get out of bed very early in the morning of January 13th and write down what had been constantly playing in his head.
The message had become so clear that he wrote the whole song down in one take. Since that morning only a few minor words have been changed to fit the melodic cadence of the song. The song had been presented in the dreams as a quiet soothing beginning with one single voice and then slowly building to an ending that included a large choir. Lloyd knew that the single voice would be his youngest daughter, Samantha. He took the words he had written and penned in the top right corner of the page, Samantha Solon-Soloist, St Stephens Bell Choir, St Stephens and RA Long Choir. He placed the paper in the bathroom that Samantha uses in the morning and he went back to bed.
Later in the morning, Samantha brought the paper into his office where he was working and asked what it was about. He explained the purpose and drive behind the song and told her of the vision he had seen night after night over the last month. At the time, Samantha was a junior in high school and Lloyd had envisioned that the song would be done the next year while she was a senior. It had been envisioned that Twenty Six Bells would not only be performed at St Stephens Episcopal Church but also at the RA Long High School Christmas presentation. The RA Long Choir also does a Christmas performance at a very special venue in Portland, Oregon called The Grotto and Lloyd had envisioned that it would be performed at this venue also.
The main gist of the song Twenty Six Bells is that every name of those involved in the tragedy at Sandy Hook was different. There were no repeated names amongst those who lost their lives on that tragic day. Therefore, intertwined within the song would be a melodic “bell anthem” that would utilize twenty six different bells to designate each individual and then their names would be read after each bell tolled. The song was to be a message of unboundless hope while at the same time remembering what we have lost.
Through different circumstances and Lloyd’s questioning of his directive, the process to bring the song to fruition didn’t transpire in time for the song to be ready for the first anniversary of the tragedy. Yet by that first anniversary, the process had been set in motion to ultimately bring the song to life. Lloyd had enlisted the help of Jean Watson, the Bell Choir Director of St Stephens Church, and Ann Long, who is the retired pianist of the church. It had been said that “the piano is an extension of Ann’s hands,” and the way she took to this project, made it her own, and began to churn out a beautiful accompaniment was amazing. Lloyd became very depressed that he hadn’t done what he needed to do to have this project ready for the first anniversary, but both Ann and Jean reassured him that obviously it was not what God had intended.
On that first anniversary of the shooting, the town of Newtown, Connecticut brought out twenty six large bells to ring. One bell was rung for each person who lost their lives in the school. The Sandy Ground Project, which was building twenty six playgrounds in honor of each person, also made a Christmas tree ornament for fund raising purposes that was a metal bell. It had an inscription on the back that read, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.” That was the line used for the first verse of the song Twenty Six Bells. These were a couple of coincidences that touched close to the song.
Since Ann was in California at this time on her winter retreat, and a lot of work had been done to set the structure of the finished product, it was decided to leave it where it was until Ann came back from California in May. At that point, instead of conversing through e-mails, Lloyd and Ann could work directly together to have a “real time” response to the progress of the project.
Since the project was on a hiatus, Lloyd shifted his focus to actually absorbing the tragedy. He had not read any articles about Sandy Hook since the tragedy had happened over a year before. His daughter and sister had sent him articles and videos on the first anniversary but the pain was still too strong for him to look. Finally in February of 2014 he began to open the articles and the videos. He began to absorb the pain by collecting all the information he could find about the tragedy. With the help of his older sister, they began to place all this information and the information about the song in the Twenty Six Bells website. The next few months became very busy making the website the best that it could be to form a very comprehensive memorial to this unspeakable tragedy.
In October of 2014 the song was given to the St Stephens Bell Choir and the St Stephens Vocal Choir. They both would have adequate time to practice for a presentation on Sunday December 14th, the second anniversary of the tragedy. It was too much of a rush to include the choir of the high school at RA Long, but at least the presentation would happen on the actual second anniversary. It became a special presentation for all in attendance that day at St Stephens Episcopal Church.