Old songs

When I was still a churchgoer the kind of music I most liked to sing was called “praise” music.  It was considerably more modern than the old hymns of my parents and grandparents generations.  When I hear it now, it reminds me of the pop music on programmed FM stations you can find anywhere in the country.  Usually the words were put on an overhead projector so it was easy to sing along.  Most praise songs are essentially love songs to Jesus.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  They say much the same thing…. I love Jesus, Jesus is my everything, I am nothing without Jesus.  There was something meditative about singing the same lyrics over and over again, in spite of their sappiness.

I really didn’t enjoy trying to sing from the hymnals; the phrasing was difficult and the melodies were not always easy to predict, especially with some of the more obscure hymns.  And they just didn’t rouse the emotions the way the praise songs did, because I had to concentrate so much to understand what the darn songs were talking about.

Over the past several years I have been immersing myself in early American music, primarily old-time music out of Appalachia.  And in the process I have come across some amazing songs that were written from the heart, with words reflecting the troubles of the times.   They move me on an emotional level because of the beauty and hardship and hopefulness that the songs represent.

The one I have fallen in love with most recently is called Ecstasy.  It was written by John Leland in 1793.  Crooked Still, a string band of brilliant young musicians, performs a modern version of the old Sacred Harp Hymn.   I’m no longer a Christian, but my history as a Christian will always stay with me.  I can still hear a song about Jesus and it can bring me to tears.  It makes me think of the lives of my grandparents and my ancestors before them.


Oh when shall I see Jesus and reign with Him above

and from the flowing fountain drink everlasting love
oh had  I wings I would fly away and be at rest
and I’d praise God in His bright abode

Whene’er you meet with troubles and trials on your way
cast all your cares on Jesus and don’t forget to pray

oh had I wings I would fly away and be at rest
and I’d praise God in His bright abode

Gird on the gospel armor of faith and hope and love
and when the combat’s ended He’ll carry you above

Oh had I wings I would fly away and be at rest
and I’d praise God in His bright abode

oh, do not be discouraged for Jesus is your friend
and if you lack for knowledge He’ll not refuse to lend

oh had I wings I would fly away and be at rest
and I’d praise God in His bright abode

Author: Teresa

From my house I can see glaciers, mountains, the amazing Kachemak Bay and occasionally a moose family or a bear (but not Russia.) I write--primarily but not exclusively fiction--and work part time in a library.

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