Moved by the music

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It’s odd, isn’t it, how music takes us to another time and place? Or maybe it’s just me.

In our family, vacations five and six decades ago generally meant a road trip to visit Dad’s parents and siblings in southern Colorado. That’s a long trip – we were five people and a dog in the family sedan, determined to cut minutes off our record time. Dad drove, Mom held the map. And at least once per trip, but never more than twice, Dad would serenade us with his a capella version of “San Antonio Rose.”

Today, when I hear that song I’m transported to my youth, to road trips with a car-sick sister, a dachshund that didn’t travel well, a paper grocery sack stuffed with a loaf of pre-buttered bread and room-temperature chicken fried just to sustain us on the trip, and to Dad’s falsetto ‘ahaa’. Yes, it’ll leave me teary.

‘In The Garden’ could be a favorite hymn. It has the right lyrics and it’s a melody almost anyone can sing. Almost.

For me, that great gospel song by Austin Miles conjures up the too-frequent summer Sundays with grandparents at First Christian Church of Selman City. The sanctuary was un-air conditioned and the pews were over-varnished – standing to sing required tugging one’s shirt and the seat of your sweaty pants loose from the pew. “Let us stand and sing” was followed by the susurration of fabric loosened from the gentle grip of soft varnish.

The tiny congregation always mustered a small choir; those eight or ten choristers stood sweaty shoulder-to-sweaty shoulder behind the preacher and aft of the awkwardly painted River Jordan muralized above the baptistry, a ceiling fan turning slowly overhead. The choir, accompanied by a single pianist, struggled to overtake that one woman – I never figured out which – who screeched and sawed loudly and off key through hymn after hymn, Sunday after Sunday. She most memorably butchered (in my recollection, certainly) ‘In The Garden’. She was faithful in her attendance and devoted to her mostly-musical role, God bless her.

The Knopfler brothers and their rock group Dire Straits will always be, for me, night skiing at the old Multorpor Ski Bowl in the Cascade Mountains west of Mount Hood.

Multorpor was a low-elevation ski area; the snow was inclined toward slush during the warmth of the day, so the best skiing there was at night, under the lights. It was popular because lift tickets were cheap and, of the ski areas around Mt. Hood, it was nearest to Portland. Just as skating rinks here offer skating to music, that inexpensive ski bowl boasted speakers on the light standards. We skied to music.

And there was that one night. The sky was clear, the snow was new and crisp, the skis stayed parallel and Dire Straits rocked ‘Sultans of Swing.’ My buddy Ed always skied better than I, but that night – that one night – the legs were strong, the head was clear, Mark Knopfler was perfect. All was right with the world and, for me, that song will always be the night I skied flawlessly.

Maybe it’s just me.

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