Thank you for the Music


On Sunday, 11 June, we were invited to the Childrens Service when the worship was in the hands of the teachers and pupils of the Sunday Club. We applauded the teachers and pupils who worked hard to give us 'Food for Thought'. It was a splendid effort! On the way home my thoughts turned to my own experiences in Sunday School and the songs I recall. "I will make you fishers of men", "I'm HAPPY" and "Dropping dropping, hear the pennies fall" - memorable because if it was your birthday, you were allowed to collect the coppers in a bowl. My own favourite was "Safe in the arms of Jesus" because I loved the tune! We as a family had lived in Ayrshire and Dad played the organ in the local church. On many evenings I went to sleep listening to the music from The Messiah, the Oratoria by Handel, when he practised with the soloists and I have to say, I did not appreciate this privilege as much as I should have done. Consequently, when we moved to Edinburgh and Dad took me to a performance, I had a mind-blowing moment. There we sat, with the music before us,listening and remembering, I think it was Isobel Bailey singing "I know that my Redeemer liveth" and I was astounded to realise just how much of this music I had retained. Of course the Hallelujah Chorus remains in my mind!

Between 1911 and 1929 America's most famous and highest paid entertainer became known to British audiences. In 1921 'The Jazz Singer' was the first talking picture with Al Jolson, the 'black-faced' performer. After the Pearl Harbour attack on the US by Japan, he was the first US star to entertain troops serving abroad. Jolson was to jazz and ragtime what Elvis later became to Rock 'n Roll. He was not really a singer, rather a performer who had us all singing Swanee and Mammy (with actions!)

Come the war, and a disruptive time. On Sundays, when singing "Now Israel may say and that truly, if that the Lord had not our cause maintained" along with my mother, I wondered who the Germans were singing to, NOT OUR GOD surely? It is over 70 years since Glen Miller was killed, when his plane went missing over the English Channel. Miller was synonymous with WWII Big Bands. He was named The King of Swing with "String of Pearls", "In the Mood" and
"Chatanooga Choo Choo".

I was part of 'The Crowd' in Corstorphine. We were all involved in the tennis club in St Margaret's Park. During the winter months we rented the hall in Aitken's rooms where we held dances. We played the popular records of the time, from those lucky enough to have purchased these, but we always ended the evening with 'Moonlight Serenade' and Glen!

Sunday mornings after church we would return home to hear 2 Way Family Favourites, hosted by Cliff Michelmore from servicemen posted around the world and Jean Metcalfe in Britain (whom he later married). Messages were exchanged and music, requested by the participants, was played. I seem to recall that most requests were for American tunes and performers. These were memorable to me because there was a time, after the war, when music from America was not available on the BBC. I loved Hoagy Carmichael, 1962, who wrote and sang 'Georgia on my Mind' and 'Moonlight in Vermont' which I sang to my husband in a car park when visiting that lovely town. Bing Crosby, who taught us to dream of a 'White Christmas' and following him, Frank Sinatra, a more exciting songster to my mind, with 'New York, New York' and 'My Way'. Dean Martin, like Frank a member of the Rat Pack, and surely one of the most popular and enduring entertainers of the 20th century. He was so relaxed in his performances one could be forgiven for thinking he had imbibed. That 'Little Old Wine Drinker' could fool many!

While I found listening and dancing to the Big Bands, Dorsey, Goodman, Miller et aI, I came to love country and western performers. Willie Nelson, 'Always on my Mind' and Kris Kristofferson, an ex-boxer who recorded 'Sunday Morning Coming Down' and composed 'For the Good Times'. When I was in Georgia attending a concert, requests were invited. I asked for the former and the performer was astonished that I should be familiar with the first title, me, from Scotland! Bob Dylan, another classic with the fact that the ‘Answer was Blowing in the Wind', had most of us pondering. The year 1960 heralded perhaps one of the most commercially successful bands of our time, the brilliance of the Beatles. From ‘All you need is Love' to 'The Long and Winding Road' - one of my favourites (which was the
B842 and stretches 31 miles in the west of Scotland).

In 1961 the musical 'West Side Story' by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim was a revelation in musical theatre, with a stunning score, violent and aggressive dance routines, a modern day version of 'Romeo and Juliet' and awarded 10 Academy Awards, I wonder what 'The English Bard' would have made of it?

Before I close, I cannot discount the American stage musicals which crossed the Atlantic bringing Rogers and Hammerstein's 'Oklahoma', 'Carousel' and 'South Pacific' to name but three while we in Britain relished the memory of Ivor Novello and his 'Dancing Years' and Julian Slade's 'Salad Days', said to contain the Queen's favourite song at the time, 'We said we wouldn't look back'. Andrew Lloyd Webber filled our theatres with productions of 'Joseph'. 'Evita' and 'Phantom', all and others equally superb. Then from across the North Sea, in Sweden, a quartet named Abba caused us to dance in the aisles while singing along! Last but certainly not least, a musical 'roller coaster' based on a harrowing tale by Victor Hugo, 'Les Miserables'. Whoever in their right mind would have thought there would be a
musical from a book by Hugo?

These are only some of my personal memories. I know many of you will not agree with these but are we not so lucky to have such a wealth of memorable music filling our homes and hearts. We may think we are not good vocalists but there is always the bath!

Go on, I dare you, pretend you are Elaine Paige, or Frank Sinatra!


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