As a young child I used to think flip flops, headbands and contemporary music were “bad” simply because we didn’t wear those accessories or listen to rock or pop. Yes, I was homeschooled, but my parents really have nothing against these things and never said a word against them. They just didn’t consume what they didn’t prefer.
My siblings and I grew up singing traditional hymns and listening to classical music.
My older brother Matthew and older sister Patricia and I would laugh with guilty pleasure when we “danced” to imaginary “bad” music, innocently mimicking what we thought other kids did—we even created our own teenage stereotype. Mom and Dad just laughed at us, never realizing our misconception of our family’s music values.
Somewhere along the road, we discovered that contemporary music is okay and I (for a time) became obsessed with flip flops and headbands. While I have expanded my horizons and respect contemporary music, I never fully got used to it. I still listen to classical music while I study or bake and sing hymns when I’m lonely. They are like the backdrop of trees in my beloved backyard where we used to play. The songs are so strong and sweet and powerful now because they were planted in my life when I was young. I can’t easily plant and cultivate any songs as beautiful as these.
Here are a few of my favorite “trees.”
Chopin: Preludes 3, 9, 14 and 15
When we were very young, Mommy would play the piano after lunch while Patricia and I danced around the living room in our slips and fought over who could wear the sombrero.
1812 Overture Finale
We often listened to this while doing Saturday chores. One night, when I was about six, Patricia was invited to a birthday party. While she was gone, Matthew and I danced to the overture in the kitchen and our party was way better than hers.
Mansion Over the Hilltop
Whenever I sing this song, I think of Patricia and me on our front steps or the settee in the backyard on a perfect day, memorizing this song together to sing for our family.
Grand Canyon Suite: Sunrise
Imagine running and twirling through a vast field of wildflowers wearing a long, flowing skirt, with a sunny blue sky above. At least one yellow butterfly flits nearby. That’s what I feel and see listening to grand and emotionally powerful music like this. Sometimes it gives me goosebumps.
Deck the Halls by Mannheim Steamroller
Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas until we listen to Mannheim Steamroller while baking sugar cookies and peppernuts in the kitchen, the angel and string of colorful bulbs blinking on the tree in the living room and mom’s homemade stockings hanging on the mantle. Patricia and I would roll out the delicious dough and cut them into star, Christmas tree and angel shapes as we shooed Matthew away from the kitchen so he wouldn’t eat the dough that fell on the floor. (He didn’t want to waste it.)
Peter and the Wolf
Oh, the dreaded exercises we used to do on the living room carpet with Mom as we listened to this after family devotions or in between school subjects. The music helped and Mom often let us choose.
Carmen: Act I: Haberana: L’amour est un oiseau robelle
I used to want to be an opera singer when I grew up. I sang hymns and gibberish in the shower in my high pitched “opera” voice and dreamed of taking the stage and awing everyone with my “beautiful” voice (I couldn’t even sing on tune). My dreams were not dampened after watching the Marx Brothers’ 1935 film, “A Night at the Opera.” This piece comes from Carmen, which Daddy took us to see at the Nashville Opera a few years ago. I don’t understand the words; I just love the way opera and French sound.
This is one song I’m sure we sang every Sunday at a house church we worshiped with for a few years when I was a teenager. For those who don’t know, Wee Sing is practically an encyclopedia of folk songs.
Pomp and Circumstance
I was 13 when I first remembered hearing this at Matthew’s graduation from Union in 2008. A younger sister was never prouder of her 18-year-old brother than I was and this piece expressed it for me. I vowed I would remember this music forever. The piece still fills me with pride for my family. That’s why I’m probably the only one I know who likes it.