Thursday, December 01, 2011

Memorial Service Blues??

Last Saturday, my family gathered at Philadelphia United Methodist Church for my mother's memorial service.

My mother had written the plans for her memorial service several years ago. There were two hymns in the service. They were "O For a Thousand Tongues" and "Jesus Loves Me". Sounds pretty simple, right? Wrong!

With the service on Thanksgiving weekend, the regular church organist was unavailable. So a friend of one of my aunts was enlisted to play the organ. I am sure that I am committing some sort of huge social error by complaining about funeral music, but it was horrible. We would have been better off  if we had just gone to Wal-Mart and bought a karaoke machine.

It opened badly. On the first hymn, "O For a Thousand Tongues", the organist was playing an alternate tune that none of us knew or could follow. In addition, he was one of those who tried to lead everyone in singing. When he started the hymn with his singing, he sounded so bad that my wife looked at me and gave me that "What are you doing?" look.  I quickly pointed out that it was the organist and not me singing. Here's a pointer, pal. Either sing or play the organ, you can't do both. Wait! I'm not sure that you can do either.

A few minutes later came the second hymn, "Jesus Loves Me". I thought that this one would surely go well. I was wrong again. At age 58, I have heard that song played thousands of times and I was sure that anyone could play that song. Wrong again!! This was my first experience with someone trying to turn a child's song into some kind of Negro spiritual. I have NEVER heard the tune he was playing associated with "Jesus Loves Me". There were three verses for "Jesus Loves Me" in the Methodist Hymnal being used Saturday. After we staggered through the first verse with his "spiritual" rendition, he started playing what should have been the second verse. I don't know what music he was reading, but the words that he was singing didn't match anything that we had. After one line, we just kind of stopped and let him solo the rest of the way. Mercifully, he had no third verse to sing.

I'm sure that my mother was watching and laughing. Sorry, Mom. You should have written in the karaoke machine thing.


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