This week I did a virtual event for the Mission Valley Chorus which is related to Sweet Adelines, which is the distaff side of Barber Shop Quartets. As far as I know, those are still all male, but a lot of things have changed in that regard in recent years.
When my husband asked me, “How did you get mixed up with them?” I replied. “They asked.” And that was true—they did ask. But it was also only part of the answer, because there’s some history here.
Sometime in the early eighties, while I was still living in a condo in what was then called the Denny Regrade, a national convention came to town featuring the above mentioned groups—Barber Shop Quartets and Sweet Adeline Quartets from all over the country.
I have no idea which year it was or even the month, but it must have been in the summer, because the weather was beautiful and the sky over downtown Seattle was absolutely and gorgeously blue. Suddenly, all of downtown Seattle was like a scene out of the Sound of Music. There were quartets singing at street corners, on buses, in elevators, and on the trolley down by the waterfront. There were probably quartets singing on the Washington State Ferries, although I can’t say that for sure.
Some of our friends who lived in the same condo development were friends with members of one of the top line quartets, and they came to Bay Vista to do a live concert in one of the units. It was wonderful. It was magical, and that’s part of why I agreed to do something for the Mission Valley Chorus—because I still treasure the memory of those song-filled days in Seattle. But there’s another reason as well, and that would be my mother, Evie Busk.
Some of my regular readers are probably shaking their heads and saying, “Oh, dear. Not HER again!” Well, yes, her again, and that’s just the way it is. And as Evie would have said, “Like it or lump it.”
And just like much of that virtual event, this blog will be about music and my mother. There’s an excellent chance that, in fifteen years of blogging, I may have told all or part of this story previously, but here’s the thing about stories. How many times as a kid did you hear the story of Little Red Riding Hood, for example, or the Little Red Hen? And every time you heard those stories, you loved them right? And what about those old Knock Knock jokes. Even now, those old jokes are to be treasured.
Orange chu glad I didn’t say banana?
Still funny, even after all these years. And so, back to Evie Busk.
I wish I could have been a mouse in the corner when my mother was growing up with her five siblings. I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect that, just like in our house on Yuma Trail in Bisbee, music was alive and well in the Anderson household. I’m guessing there was singing when people were doing dishes or cleaning the house. For all I know, maybe there was even singing out in the barn when people were milking cows.
My mother attended a one-room schoolhouse I doubt she ever had an official music class or teacher in that one-room schoolhouse. As far as I know, Evie Busk never had lessons in playing any instrument, but what I do know is this: she had an astounding collection of lyrics and melodies stuck in her head, and she shared them all with of her children.
By the time I was old enough to be aware of such things, my older sisters, Janice and Jeannie, were busy singing duets in the talent show at Greenway School and at the Christmas Pageant for the Warren Community Church. When I came along, our mother taught me to sing the melody, while Janice and Jeannie harmonized.
The three of us—Janice, Jeannie, and Judy—comprised the set of kids, the ones born in South Dakota, that our mother referred to as “the first batch.” When the second batch came along—all born in Arizona—their voices were added to what was fast becoming a mini-chorus.
For the record, here’s a word about our father, Norman. As my younger brother Arlan once said, “There are 88 keys on the piano, and Daddy sings in the cracks.” And that was true. Our father couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. I somehow doubt he enjoyed the constant song-fest going on around him, but he tolerated it with great patience.
I know I’ve mentioned before that long family car trips were full of the songs our mother taught us: The Old Pine Tree; Tumbling Tumble Weeds; Sweet Violets; Cool, Clear Water and others too numerous to mention. We all had our favorites. Arlan and Jim owned their duet version of Sweet Violets.
The last time all seven of us kids were together before our brother Jim passed away at age fifty was on the occasion of our parents’ 65th wedding anniversary. We sat around in the conference room at a small motel in Bisbee and sang all those old songs, one verse at a time.
When the party was over and Bill and I were walking to our car, he asked me. “How did you all learn to sing in harmony?” I looked at him in complete astonishment and said, “Doesn’t everybody?”
But of course the truth is, everybody doesn’t. And that caused me to think back through those very first ventures into three part harmony, with our mother helping me maintain the melody, while Janice and Jeannie confidently sang their parts.
And that’s the other reason I did that talk for the Mission Valley Chorus this week—because of a mother who never had an official music lesson in her life but who was, nonetheless, a masterful music teacher.