- Published: December 4, 2016
My memories go way back. To before I was two years old. I distinctly remember my second birthday and have spotty memories of my first. I attribute this feat to the common elements that I could readily grasp as birthday party essentials: a gathering of family, cake and ice cream, a pile of presents, and my Uncle Glenn’s guitar.
See, Glenn would lug his guitar to every family birthday. After the cake and ice cream, after the present opening, I’d sit at my parents’ feet, the family would settle in, and my uncle would tuned his instrument. Then, the circle would break into song. Spirituals, folk music, passed down ditties, well-loved hymns. The family would raise their voices full throttle in five part harmony.
Uncle Glenn is an amazing tenor. His wife Dawn has a bell like soprano voice…the voice I was most drawn to emulate. My mother sings mezzo soprano. Listening to her sing harmony was to hear my mother at her most sure and confident. My father is a baritone, deep, rich and distinctive. I could pick his voice out of sea of a hundred voices. As their voices matured my older sister and older brother filled in as alto and bass. Listening to them all blend together was a powerful event. The music so loud and resonate I could feel it beating in my chest. Singing with the family became a favorite event. The moment that Uncle Glen’s guitar came out would send me scurrying into place surpassing even my expectation for bundt cake and brilliantly wrapped presents.
A month ago Mark Munger invited me to join Vocal Vortex to sing a couple of pieces at the WinterSong fundraiser at the Presbyterian church. I rushed to say yes. I love singing next to Mark and have often sat in front of him at community chorus practices. His voice rings like the voice of my family. The kind that you don’t just hear in the ears. You feel it in your chest.
Mark has gathered great voices in town for many such events. He has an ear for the blend and a persuasive persistence that comes across as a call to arms. He’s like that group commander who, when he calls, you meet him at the gates ready for the mission before you even know what that mission might be.
Saturday night was the final night our commander called us together. Mark took a moment between our two songs Coventry Carol and Lo, How A Rose to introduce us all to the maxed-out assembly in the hall. Lori Askeland also took the moment to thank Mark and dedicate the group’s performance to him. He leaves to drive west to family early next week.
My early memories of moving back to town will be memories that feature this man and the music he fostered with a dedication as deep as his friendship with fellow bass Ron Siemer. We walk many paths and, even as they diverge, harmony reminds us how good it is where we are. I imagine voices raised…not in anger, not in grief, but in song…and never despair.