Tuesday, June 7, 2011

. . . This is My Song

A story is never really complete without the soundtrack that accompanies it.  Think about it.  Would M*A*S*H really be the same without the instrumental Suicide is Painless riff playing behind the opening credits?  How empty would the words “Space.  The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise…” be if the haunting pipes were absent behind William Shatner’s monotone drone? 
Can you even imagine Darth Vader descending from his shuttle in The Empire Strikes Back without John Williams epic Imperial March playing in the background?  I get shivers even thinking about it.
Television and movies have music to set the mood for the film.  In the days before blood and gore onscreen became the norm, light, shadow, and music told you what to expect or what was going on just out of your line of sight.
We call it all collectively songs, but that’s not technically accurate.  Words and music are both needed to make a song.  Without the melody the words are lyrics.  Without the words, the melody is just a tune.  Marry them and you have a song.  Give them a story, and you have a soundtrack.  Much like Gone With the Wind, Fiddler on the Roof, or even Harry Potter, there is a sound track to life.  My life – my soundtrack.  I guess with all its multitudinous layers and shades of tone and timbre, this is my song.
My first memory of music was big band and swing.  The stuff my Dad played.  He had the smoothest, sweetest horn you ever heard.  I don’t have any recordings of him, but I found something almost like him.  It’s from a fifteen year old recording by the Brass Band of Battle Creek.  The disc is called Music with no Strings Attached.  The track is called L’il Darlin.  It’s NOT Little Darlin.  This is the older jazz standard, and there’s not enough o’s in smooth to describe the horn work of the soloist.  It reminds me of how I remember my father playing, and that a long time ago how he used to take me to garden gigs, stand me up on a milk crate in front of a microphone, and have me sing not Old MacDonald, but the Ellington Classic, Mood Indigo.
Late the big band and jazz standards would give way to the Beatles and the Monkees, to Jimi Hendricks, Jim Morrison, Herman and his Hermits, the British Invasion, and folk tunes, and a sprinkling of the divine Mahalia Jackson, but my heart would always remember Dad’s horn, and the Duke.
In junior high school my life took a significant turn.  I became a Christian, and I changed my soundtrack station to the Southern Baptist Hymnal.  Christian pop and folk music was just forming, Christian Rock was clearly understood to be an oxymoron, and praise and worship festivals were still decades away.  We were the generation of Derek Johnson’s Regeneration, The Edwin Hawkins Singers, the Oak Ridge Boys before they went all Country, and yes – still the old faithful Southern Baptist Hymnal.
High school brought the Beach Boys, Aretha, the Temptations, the Carpenters, and BS&T.  And the kickingest Marching Band any high school had ever seen.  Cliff Colnot took over a hum drum program in my Junior year, and transformed it into Florida State University-South Campus.  We did all the top-40 tunes the marching Seminoles did, and with as much flair and flash as had ever been seen in a high school halftime show.  Mr. Colnot arranged out pieces himself, and other schools simply stood back in awe when the Marching Chiefs took the field.  We were DRUMLINE before Hollywood ever got the idea.  At our school, halftime was the show.
High school also introduced me to epic, sweeping choral pieces, and the sweet harmonies and intricate counterpoint of madrigal music.  I will carry the memory of eight part harmony in a spiritual called The Eyes of All Wait Upon Thee, and the matchless, smooth beyond their years voices of Keith, Beverly and Alfred as long as I walk this planet.  And the thousand voice festival choir at Miami’s Fountainbleu Grand Ballroom, as we sang a controlled triple pianissimo with such quiet magnitude that the chandelier rattled.
When my children discovered band and choir, I returned with them to my roots – big band and swing.  Vocal Jazz.  Intricate harmonies that made the once formidable Southern Baptist hymnal seem empty and without form.
I polished my vocal skills to sing anything from upper registers of Bass to high Tenor.  My instrumental prowess expanded to include keyboards, percussion, and electric Bass guitar.  I wrote and performed my own tunes, and I accompanied others, and until my stroke three years ago, I was the bassist in our church praise team.
There you have it – the lyrics to the song, but what of the song?  It is the song of the Redeemed!  It is the song of forgiveness and repentance.  The song of recovery a sinner can sing when he or she finally stops running from God.  It is the song of Salvation and worship; of singing Worthy is the Lamb of God who was slain from the foundations of the earth.  And for all my love of praise and worship tunes, and my ebullience at the sweet, sweet harmonies of Southern Gospel quartet singing, my sing is really best expressed in the lyrics of an old tune from the Southern Baptist Hymnal written by a blind song writer named Fanny J Crosby: Blessed Assurance:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

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