From an early age, my father instilled in me a love of sacred music. As children we attended church every Sunday and there, by my father’s side, I got my first lessons in singing and in faith. At six years old, when it was time to sing, I stood on the pew beside him. He opened the hymnal and tracked the words with his finger, while I followed along. At his side, I learned not only how to sing but also how to worship.
There were more lessons to come. Sometimes they were lessons of fun as we gathered around the piano to sing songs from Mary Poppins or the Sound of Music. Sometimes they were lessons of harmony as we sang rounds by the campfire learning to make music together even when we weren’t all singing the same part. Sometimes they were lessons of awe. At Christmas, we didn’t listen to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” but spent hours listening to sacred choral music performed by choirs like the Robert Shaw Chorale. The poetry and beauty of these carols opened me to awe and the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation, often moving me to tears.
Music in large part formed me into the person of faith that I am today. It was not my father’s teaching that shaped me; rather it was his music. His music sank deep into my soul and nurtured my faith.
When my father died, 20 of his children and grandchildren formed a choir to sing for his funeral. Our song was an offering of thanks for my father’s legacy and of praise to God. Thanks be to God for my father and his music.