Sunday, February 27, 2011


All images from the Intenet

Today's How Sweet the Sound reminded me of our Sunday mornings when Chris and I were first married---the song was part of our Sunday morning getting-ready-for-church time. We'd sing along with this one, and Take My Hand, all through breakfast and dressing and getting out the door, still humming or singing Lower Lights or Golden Bells in the car, all the way up the walk into the church doors. That little cassette held a lot of good music.
And Chris is down there this minute, at our little church---gone to visit his folks for a few days. I marked the time just now between "changing classes" between Sunday School and Church, then the little soft-speaking time as everyone took their pews, and the expectant hush which fell as the choir filed in. About now they’re making their way out into the Noonday, shaking hands and speaking and hugging babies, headed for the parking lot, where, if it’s not rainy or too cool, they’ll stand and greet and make plans and catch up on the week's doings with their neighbors.

Isn’t it lovely the feelings and memories that the music of our pasts evoke?

There’s the Sunday morning at my own little country church where I raised my children, when the vast numbers of a local family all returned to the “Home Place” for a family gathering, to see one of the grandsons off into the Army. None of us knew of the bad time coming---the marking of this new beginning was really a closing and a finality for the gathering of that family, and I look back on that golden morning, with the sun streaming in the windows, as all the voices rang out in Amazing Grace and Make me a Blessing and God of Our Fathers. We sang Godspeed and Grace to that sweet young man, not dreaming we were bidding farewell to the linking of the family chain, which was never to be the same.
Image result for church pulpit with American Flag

That Sunday, the rafters rang, just as they did the Sunday in September every year, when our small church hosted the All-Day-Singing-with-Dinner-on-the-Grounds. That was a gathering of remarkable, talented, totally-dedicated unsung singers who knew each other and every song in the worn little books they carried to a different church each Sunday of the Summer.
We knew the lady-who-sang-tenor by voice and face---Miss Artha was a pleasant woman, her Saturday-at-the-Beauty-Shop evident in the stiff sails of her poufy hair; her resemblance to Miss Vestal Goodman was even more pronounced, down to the sparkling rings on the hand holding the hanky. She was faintly kissed by celebrity amongst all the followers of the old-time music, and her Kitty Wells notes resounded over the quartet with the ease of a lifelong familiarity.

And then there were the twins who belonged on the Opry, and the different family groups, and the four men approaching their Eighties, who had sung these same songs together for decades, with an occasional wavery note making the effort all the more wonderful and endearing. All the visiting singers carried those little shape-notes folios---a great box of them was hauled out of a trunk and distributed to those of us whose experience of many of the songs was limited to this one time of year. I loved singing along, for the accustomed kinship of the music to most of those regulars was easy as breathing, and it made ME feel the ease, too.

And sometimes, for some songs, there would be an intensity in the air, a hum that was not of voices, but was akin to standing beneath the engines of an airplane---a power not of ourselves, not harnessable, like the swinging, surging notes of that old piano to I'll Fly Away---gripping and carrying, so that all you could do was jump in and hang on til the tide rolled in and deposited you, breathless, on the damp sand.

A Shape-Notes page. These could be read by folks who couldn't read music, and I'm sure some of them couldn't read the words, either, but knew them by heart.

Hosting The Singing was an honor to the church and the community, also a time for catching up on kin and friends from far churches and communities, stopping for a noon meal brought from far and wide, the platters of ham and fried chicken and nine kinds of potato salad from the local Church Ladies sitting side-by with the crocks of beans and the pound cake transported from The Hills and the pie and rolls from the kitchens of fine cooks in Tallahatchie County and Byhalia.
This one, by happenstance, is at Enon Church in Itawamba County, where I've been many times. I think it was even of my era, for I had a dress just like that.
One Easter Sunday, our own little choir sang the Gaither’s Alleluia, cover to cover. We had fifteen choir members---strong voices---soaring sopranos for the melody and descant, and right-on altos and tenors and good baritones, with one spectacular, cavern-deep bass. We had church members who played organ, piano, flute, drums, bass and guitar, and even the practice sessions seemed like a divine experience. The place was packed that Sunday morning, and the music was WAY beyond ourselves---another tide which swirled and danced and carried everyone to a lovely place.

How I’d love to hear those songs sung by all those people one more time---many of the voices are gone to another Choir now, and so many moved away or moved on. I have to feel that the notes are still somewhere, waiting for the next Edison to come and capture the sound waves and restore all those precious, lost tones. I think that WILL happen someday, that retrieval of the chords and notes and phrases, for miracles occur and are being invented every day.

Until the Possible, we’ll keep them alive by remembering. Please share your music memories, any and all.


Nail said...

My favorite memory of music with you was when you directed the Christmas Contata and I played the piano....for over an hour... flawlessly...except for the very last note! UGH!!!

Tonja said...

There is always the hope that the music you are performing will today be 'glorious'...that it will be (as you said) "WAY beyond ourselves". To be a part of that sort of experience, is just a taste of what we shall hear when we become members of THE greatest choir! To be carried away on the notes and the phrasing and the timing to THAT place is not easily explained. But to go there wish to go there again. And, so you do your learn, you practice, you live the music...and you wait...wait for Him to show up and take it to its highest level.

Thank you for reminding me of this. I have thought often that tone of God's greatest gifts is the gift of music.

Chesapeake said...

We asked for some of the older songs for my father's funeral last year about this time, so this brings tears of remembrance to my eyes. Good tears, mind, my dear!

Do have problems with some of the newer "hymns" around nowadays.

Kim S. said...

Oh, Rachel, what beautiful, sad and soaring memories you write of.

Jessica already knows that the hymns at my funeral MUST include Amazing Grace and All Things Bright and Beautiful (what can I say, I am Anglican to my bones!).

Jacqueline~Cabin and Cottage said...

You take me back to places I haven't even been before! i enjoyed reading the last post from your other blog too! I laughed very hard! I wished there was more.

Jeanne said...

Dear Rachel, I have just spent a bit of time catching up with your music stories and poor Caro's root canal. I hope she is feeling better by now.

Your memories of music just made me long to hear the old time music our Church in Florida used to sing. We had such talented people with beautiful singing talents that I haven't thought of in years. I love music of all kinds. Leaving out hard rock and rap. My true love is piano music by far. My niece is a concert pianist and teaches now. She had full scholarships in music and she is always willing to play on request. We all love her dearly. Her mother is my sister who just celebrated her 70th birthday.
This darling niece is happily married and has two teenage daughters who both play as well. They were here on Saturday for their mom's birthday party. I gave my piano to my daughter many years ago or we could have been entertained. Sadly my granddaughter only took lessons for a short time. I do have a grandson who took lessons since he was 7 and is now 14. He plays very well.
Well I am rambling and could go on and on. I will close with a big thank you for the time you took to write your wonderful music posts.

Love, Jeanne

PS: I so understand how you feel about my post today. I feel the same way. I did want to share the info about wearing blue on Fridays. It is easy enough to do and maybe it will catch on.

Justabeachkat said...

You're so right, music can bring memories rushing back. I've loved these last three posts of many wonderful memories.


Beverly said...

Ah, dear Rachel. I'm certain you can tell from my Sunday posts that I am a lover of traditional hymns. Amazing Grace is my favorite of any song - ever. I sang it to my grandson when I rocked him. He called it his night-night song.

I always went to church with one of my grandmothers when we were visiting. She loved to sing along in church, and I can remember how her voice began to shake as she aged. She always held my hand in church, and we would give each other a little squeeze when something was especially poignant.

Beverly said...

Oops! I meant to thank you for the link.♥