Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Gift to Sing

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)



Surely, James Weldon Johnson knew about this pandemic when he walked on this earth. He had to know. He had to know that in 2020 and 2021, there would be people in their homes whose lives had been changed forever, and they would have a need to sing.

Most of the people who read this blog are musicians in some form or fashion, and I know we must be some of the most short-sighted humanity who has ever taken a breath...we never imagined that there would come a day when we would not be allowed to sing. Never in a million years could we ever think that such a day would become "the norm" for more than a year...but...that's where we are. I never worried a bit about it. "They" would fix it before "it" became a problem. Talk about being naive!

Those of us who enjoy singing and making music are hard-pressed to remember a more difficult time professionally. All of the teaching in the classroom has been modified to accommodate a more technology-driven approach, and we are so fortunate that it was available. What would we have done as members of The Greatest Generation? It would have been a-w-f-u-l!!

My late husband, Bill Turner, was a pastor who preached a sermon several times entitled "Why Making Music Matters." He and I presented a program of the same title in many churches, TCDA, Southwest, ACDA, etc., where they sang my music, and Bill related "everything to everything else." Bill went into the history of music and how it was used by people of faith over centuries. His personal opinion was that people would generally not remember the things he said in a sermon, but they would always connect with music. Therefore, music was always important to Bill...from the hiring of music personnel to the hymns chosen. Music mattered.

One closing thought he always stated in these sermons was from St. Francis of Assisi to a passerby. Evidently, St. Francis always sang as he walked down the road, and so the passerby asked, "Where are you going?" "To the next world." Eventually, he asked St. Francis, "Why do you sing?" St. Francis replied, "I sing to keep from losing my way."

With the difficulties of the past year+, we found ourselves at a loss because we needed music more than ever to help us to find our way...but we could not have it in the same ways it had blessed our lives in the past. Our music...choral music. Thank God for MASKS!! At least we could have some semblance of an ensemble experience with our masks snugly in place. We are so grateful.

The Gift to Sing is just that...a GIFT...we have given ourselves a gift in its truest form. We have experienced the loss of this gift and the grief that consumes our beings when our gift is no longer accessible and near. We all have a new definition of "heartache." We also have new definitions of "healing" and "hope." I remember writing some warm-ups not-too-long ago about "We're simply waiting on a new vaccine." To know that warm-up is already out-of-date gives me joy beyond anything you can imagine. JOY! In fact, I have both my vaccines, and I'm waiting on you to get yours, too. When 80% of the population is vaccinated, I think we might be able to talk about "mask issues." Wouldn't that be totally, positively great??!!

In the mean time, I love reading the words of James Weldon Johnson, knowing he used music as a personal gift to get through the darkest of times, the gloomiest of times, and the most "broken" of times. I love Johnson's text, "I brood not over the broken past, nor dread whatever time may bring...." Johnson understood the realities. He knew there would be tough times, but he knew that music was his ticket to light. He would sing his way into the light of continuing on in a very difficult world. He, too, sang to keep from losing his way.

Please visit my website to peruse and hear The Gift to Sing. There are many voicings available: SATB3-Part MixedSSATTBBTTBTB2-Part, and Unison

Once you begin singing this uplifting text, you will "step into the sunshine" with Dr. Johnson. We cannot allow the darkness to consume us. There is light, and we sing our way into a new journey of hope, joy, freedom, and beauty as.....we....SING! Thank you, Dr. Johnson!!