By Jim Harper
So, as you all— I am Jim, by the way, the middle brother —as you all probably know, music is very important in the Harper family.
When we were growing up, we were each either assigned or picked an instrument to play… some of us went further with this than others. (laughter) And I always sort of thought of it in my mind as the Bach Family Orchestra. I sort of thought that maybe Dad had so many kids to fill the gaps in the orchestra. But, that never panned out.
So, Margaret played the cello. That was her division, her instrument. And she also played the piano, just like Carol and Dorothy. But she also loved to sing.
She got together with Judy Petke and Rosalyn Hines at Bair Lake Bible Camp — we spent most of our summers at Bair Lake Bible Camp — and they formed a trio: The Bair Lake Lovelies. And they had wonderful harmonies. And I think they even sang out here, in Lombard, under a different name: The Lombard Lovelies.
But I came across this quote by Garrison Keillor, who I think Margaret enjoyed listening to, from a piece he wrote, Singing with the Lutherans. And I presume by that, he meant Singing with Sanctified Brethren, because that’s who he grew up singing with.
“Lutherans are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony. It’s a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person’s rib cage. It’s natural for Lutherans to sing in harmony. We’re too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you’re singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it’s an emotionally fulfilling moment. I once sang the bass line of Children of the Heavenly Father in a room with about three thousand Lutherans in it; and when we finished, we all had tears in our eyes, partly from the promise that God will not forsake us, partly from the proximity of all those lovely voices. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other.”
So, when we turned off life-support for Margaret, we sang her into heaven. She lasted two songs, and her heart stopped.
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Here is my playlist for the prelude with some choice lyrics. One of my favorite piano quotes is from my sister Dorothy: Play the words.
Sweet, Sweet Spirit — Without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived when we shall leave this place.
King Jesus — For He opens doors for me, doors I’m not able to see, That’s why I say King Jesus will roll my burdens away.
He’s Able — I know my Lord is able to carry me through.
Softly and Tenderly — You who are weary, come home.
There Is a Fountain — Redeeming love has been my theme and shall be till I die.
I Will Sing of My Redeemer — How the victory He giveth over sin and death and hell.
I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say — I came to Jesus as I was, so weary, worn, and sad. I found in Him a resting place and He has made me glad.
Wayfaring Stranger — I’m only going over Jordan; I’m only going over home.
Come Thou Fount — Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
Abide with Me — Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
My God Is Real — [written by Mahalia!!] His love for me is just like pure gold, My God is real, for I can feel Him in my soul.
Come, Ye Disconsolate — Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.
Precious Lord, Take My Hand — At the river I stand, guide my feet, hold my hand, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.
Blessed Assurance — Angels, descending, bring from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Tears here as I think of the words to most of these songs, and hear most of them in the 4-part aCapella harmony of my childhood in the Church of Christ. We too sang everywhere and I still easily hear those harmonies (I sang alto). I don’t think we sang Wayfaring Stranger at church, but I picked it up along with some other old spirituals and sang them as bedtime songs for my children who came to request them as “sing the slave songs, mommy”. I didn’t sing solos very often, but during a several-years stint in Terry’s family’s Methodist Church, I sang a few including Mahalia’s “My God is Real”. I think you posted a song title on FB in the past few weeks and I immediately heard it in my head with the bass line booming out the first words, but the song itself escapes me now.
Prayers continuing for you and your family, Carol. May these songs continue to be a balm to your hurting hearts.