Friday, August 22, 2008

Music is a Tradition in our Family, Sung & Played

Today's Riddle:
What musical instrument is found in the bathroom?

Singing and Playing
My two oldest grandchildren had practice with their bands two thousand miles apart yesterday, and are perhaps a little (or a lot) sore today. My third oldest grandchild auditioned and (of course) got into a prestigious choral group, and is now in practice (perhaps yesterday also) for their upcoming Carnegie Hall performance.

Three granddaughters and a daughter sang and won in their categories in their hometown ‘Idol’ contests two or three years in a row, one performs at nursing homes, and two recently sang at a Senior church luncheon. Two auditioned for and sang the Irish national anthem for a professional troupe of Irish dancers at their performances (one dances in this troupe, the second youngest to ever pass the audition). One writes songs and sang them, accompanying herself on the guitar at five county fairs in her state this summer.

Among my eight descendants, they play piano, organ, guitar, soprano and alto recorder, alto and baritone saxophone, flute, ukulele, Irish pennywhistle, Irish flute and perhaps one other instrument whose name escapes me. We are so proud of you all!!

Again, I hope I haven’t left anyone out. I always want corrections and additions to this blog.

We had a piano in my childhood home in Scarborough, Maine, and on the rare occasion that my grandmother sat down, she usually played from the many hymnbooks she brought with her from New Jersey. From the time I was tall enough to see the keyboard, I stood beside her and she taught me songs like The B-I-B-L-E; Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam; Jesus Loves Me; This Little Light of Mine; What a Friend We Have in Jesus; A Little Talk With Jesus; Do Lord; Happy Day Express. Once I had learned regular hymns, she sang alto with me, as she had when my mother was young and they sang in the choir at Trinity M.E. Church in Trenton, New Jersey.

Besides hymns, my grandmother taught me many spirituals (Jacob's ladder, Golden Slippers, Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho, Down by the Riverside, etc) and folk songs (Home on the Range, Hush Little Baby, Polly-Wolly Doodle, Suwannee River, My Grandfather's Clock, etc.) Born in 1889, as a girl she taught in a one-room schoolhouse, and knew many children's songs of that time (The Swing Song, Come Little Leaves, Bicycle Built for Two, The Old Oaken Bucket, etc).

When I started school, I brought home the songbook and she taught me all the songs. They’re still as fresh in my mind as when I learned them 60 years ago.

In high school I auditioned for and was in Choir as a second soprano, then 2 years as a first soprano. In December each year the Choir went in a school bus (the only time I ever rode in one) to all the elementary schools in town, including a one-room schoolhouse way back in a backwoods part of town I had never been in before or since.
Photo: age 15

Olden Times
Grampy says:
In grade 7, 8 and 9, music was very popular in the combined Junior and Senior High School that I attended in Gorham, Maine. Many of our teachers were from the nearby Gorham Teachers College. The combined music class filled the auditorium and balcony, and we sang in 8-part harmony.

In 9th grade, the music professor from the college who taught us chose me to be in a special 16-person group singing 8-part harmony, called The Gorham Madrigals. She said that besides my voice range, she picked me because I had perfect pitch. I sang second bass, and we toured the state of Maine in music competitions, performing at the University of Maine in Orono, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, and Portland City Hall. We always won, and were Best in the State.

Playing Music
As a young boy, Grampy lived in Portland, and lugged an accordion that weighed half as much as he did on the bus each week for years to the Starbird School of Music in Portland, Maine. He once played in a music recital at Portland City Hall. His parents came to see him, and the program with his name in it was mailed to his grandparents in Bar Harbor, ME. He always played for them and for his uncles, on visits.

This photo was taken in his backyard at 48 North St. on Munjoy Hill.

Grampy started out with a rented half-size 12 bass accordion, then when his Dad saw how well he could play, he purchased a full-sized 120 bass accordion for him.

Besides having individual lessons, at the music school Grampy practiced in an accordion band, and performed at Scarborough Downs. They played on the green in the center of the horse racetrack for a celebration, perhaps Opening Day or 4th of July.

He also played in talent shows at the (Portland, Maine) Emerson Elementary School in 4th, 5th and 6th grade.

Olden Times
Grampy says:
When I was 10 years old, I played my accordion in a Minstrel Show in the Thornton Heights section of South Portland, Maine. My grandaunt Estelle Packard lived there and got me into the show. I was chewing gum when I went on stage, and in trying to chew and play music at the same time, without meaning to I created a comedy act!

As I played my accordion solo, I was surprised when people started to laugh. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Why I couldn’t play that song? The stage manager came out and took away my gum, which made the audience laugh again. I kept my jaw clenched tight and did much better on my second solo!

Note to grandchildren: We are so proud of all of you and your accomplishments. Ask your mothers about their childhood memories of music in their home and our family's music traditions, like the songs they learned from their mother and taught to you when you were little (Bushel and a Peck, Abba-Dabba Honeymoon, etc).

Answer to Riddle: A tuba toothpaste


Anonymous said...

Very nice blog post.
I believe that the other Irish instrument is called the Pennywhistle.

Its really neat that I come from a family of such great musical talent!
I've always dreamed of playing the piano, though.

And I've never heard of Abba-Dabba Honeymoon! Or at least I dont think I have. I'll have to ask my mom on that one =]

Douglas Cootey said...

Pennywhistle, Tinwhistle, Irish Whistle, and those who play it all the time, just a plain ole whistle.

I don't believe my children inherited any musical talent from their mother's side, however, not when I am renown as a master nose player. Take your non-writing hand's index finger and lay it aside your nose, closing the nostril. Then, humming nasally, strum the other nostril with the index finger of your writing hand. It's musical magic. You should hear me rip into Oh, Susanna!


Douglas Cootey said...

Actually, looking over your list, I believe you covered them all. Perhaps you were thinking of the Celtic Harp? We haven't started lessons on that yet. L hasn't finished her pennywhistle lessons.


Anonymous said...

What a great melodious theme! Music plays such an integral part in our family.

One daughter plays instruments professionally and is a regional church music director.

The other met her husband in high school chorus and plays piano for a church woman's group.

When the cousins took a long road trip, they were delighted to sing the same songs you taught their mothers (Barges, You Are My Sunshine, "A" You're Adorable, Horse & Buggy, Would You Like to Swing on a Star. That same trip has sweet memories of singing to great-grandparents who have since passed on.

Kids have had fun learning harmonica and guitar with Grampy.

On Mother's Day this year granddaughter R gave a talk in church. She said her fondest childhood memories are singing with Mom at bedtime every night.

The legacy is not only the love of music, but sharing love for each other through music.

Anonymous said...

I have so many fond childhood memories of music. My mother taught me so many songs (Horse & Buggy, Swinging on a Star, Barges, Rose Red, and others!) and we would sing them often. I vaguely recall a time when I was five and she gave me a bath while I was recovering from getting my tonsils removed. We sang then and it helped me feel much better.

Mum told me about her 3 part harmony girl band that she put together. From what she says, it must have been wonderful.