Monday, February 4, 2013

Today While the Blossoms Still Cling to the Vines

I'm not sure why I typed that song line as a title. I don't particularly enjoy the song. My dad dislikes it.  I doubt that either my mom or my brother likes it,  though I've never discussed it with either of them.  Neither the melody nor the lyrics stands out as a great work.  I don't usually give it much thought.

About six  years ago, I was spending part of the summer with miscellaneous relatives is Utah. One of my girl cousins, who was and is about two years older than I, was scheduled to provide a musical number (what everyone else in Christendom calls "special music") for church that day. In many other churches, if a musician were to perform a solo of any sort, he or she would carefully choose the selection in advance and would most likely practice in advance as well.  Such would be an anomaly in Mormon circles. One often decides what one is going to play or sing between the time the performance is announced and the time it actually happens, usually in the time it takes to walk from one's seat to the front of the chapel.

In the case  of my cousin, I will give credit where it's due. She did at least ask me to accompany her half an hour before church was scheduled to start. She had  no idea what she might want to sing, but she at least didn't wait until the worship service had begun to start worrying about it.  I play the piano with relative ease, but I can be every bit as lazy as the next person. Furthermore, I don't like being looked at by people I don't know. Were I to accompany Julie, I would be seated at a piano in an unfamiliar LDS chapel, accompanying a girl who was known by more or less everyone in that chapel. They already knew her; why would they need to look at her? Instead, they all would be staring at me, noticing my knobby knees and the bones protruding at my elbows and wrists. If there were an alternative, why should I put myself through such unofficial but very real scrutiny?  I had an epiphany.

"Julie," I said to my cousin, "You play the ukulele, don't you?"

"Yes . . ." she answered, having no idea where this might lead.

"People hear the piano all the time, "I told her. "They get tired of it. Why don't you accompany yourself on the ukulele? That would be different, and people would like it."

"I don't think I know very many songs anymore," she said, sounding a bit skeptical. "I only know a few chords. And I don't know how to tune it."

"I can tune the thing for you, " I told her. "And all you need to know are three chords, " I told her. "You can do this, Julie!"

"But what would I sing?" she pondered.

"Do a primary song," I told her. Children's songs are always well-received.

Julie retrieved a children's songbook and picked out " 'Give,'  Said  the Little Stream," a standard LDS children's song. It is, incidentally, a favorite of Thomas S. Monson, who is the current head honcho of the LDS church, though he had yet to step into full power at that point.  I hurriedly penciled in a three-chord version of the song, using the chords D, G and A. I tuned the ukulele and handed it to Julie. "Go for it, " I told her.

Julie ran through the song, haltingly at first, but gaining momentum.  She was ready to appear before the congregation.

Sacrament Meeting began with the opening hymn and prayer, followed by announcements and official business. Next came The Sacrament, which is much like communion except that water is used in place of wine or grape juice. The Sacrament was  followed by a youth speaker, who was no more excited about having to speak to the congregation than Julie was to sing to them.

At last it was Julie's turn to render her musical number. (Render and rendition are two favorite words among those conducting LDS meetings)  "Sister Julie Cannon (names have been changed to protect  the innocent as well as the guilty) will now  favor us with a musical rendition of a hymn, " the bishop's first counselor announced.

My cousin Julie stood before the congregation, placed the book on a music stand in front of her, strummed a few preparatory chords, then promptly deviated from everything she had prepared. It seems that the very first song she had ever learned on the ukulele was the one about "Today while the blossoms still cling to the vines." She immediately went into it, omitting or altering absolutely nothing.
All the Mormons present that day heard Julie sing about drinking wine.  Her parents' faces were redder than any red wine Julie or anyone else might have consumed.

Julie's parents blamed me even though I had suggested nothing of the sort. Still, it was the least of my worries. At least no one was staring at my skinny little arms and legs,  every bone of which was clearly identifiable even under what little skin, fat, and muscle tissue I had.  I was happy.

My fever is in the low-grade range, so I may be sprung from this joint after tomorrow. 

1 comment:

  1. LOL... that's a pretty funny story, Alexis. Good for you for getting out of that mess!