I’ll Fly Away

By kateandcarla

March 3, 2011

Category: Uncategorized


I have found it puzzling, affirming and–on occasion–even irritating how certain facets of my childhood faith rise to the surface without being invited. And none more so than hymns.  At times of frustration when I willingly would have thrown everything from the past overboard, certain melodies have remained, loyal as Labradors, allowing me to sink into their comfort and cry. So while my beliefs continue to encompass an ever-larger sense of Spirit, these first gifts of song aren’t about to go anywhere.

It’s not surprising, then, that a chord was struck when I heard this  http://www.npr.org/2011/02/19/133877190/true-grit-a-new-score-from-old-familiar-tunes on NPR. It explains that the score of the recent box-office hit True Grit wasn’t an Oscar contender because the music was primarily a weaving together of past pieces.  If you haven’t heard  the film’s take on “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”–both the piano solo and Iris Dement–do yourself a favor and catch it here.


So, why do these pieces etch a permanent place in our collective soul?

I’m thinking they are the sound synapses that help us make sense of experiences and times too big to bridge by ourselves. Resting in the Seymour care center, my Aunt Elma, a life-long member of the Brushy Church north of Plano,  would begin singing “Shall we gather at the river?” and visibly move to a place of greater peace.  Sitting in the pews at St. Thomas Episcopal here in Denver–a church that took a strong stand for racial and gender equality–hearing “We shall not be moved” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aor6-DkzBJ0&feature=related changed my DNA.

This morning, marking the birthday of a friend recently passed, I clearly heard Johnny Cash singing.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uA4JyAONd_I&feature=related

And just for a moment, I flew away.



7 Responses to “I’ll Fly Away”

  1. When I saw True Grit, I was very surprised at all the old hymns that were part of the sound track. Some of them almost seemed eery (sp?). The movie wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoyed the music. It is part of my history, too……those wonderful old hymns. 🙂

    • That piece with Iris DeMent singing “Leaning” hit me the same way the first time…but the more I listened to it, the more it seemed so perfectly tuned to those times. Did Sewal church use the red and black Methodist hymnals?

  2. Many of the old hymns contain powerful harmonies and words that touch deep in the soul. The power for me is connected to the familiarity of the content and the experience. I have found personally and professional that familiarity is one of the strongest pulls people have. It interrupts movement towards change. And that is the good news and the bad news. For me there is something very soothing and redeeming about those old hymns and I love to hum, sing, and feel their power every once in a while.

  3. My mother has often remarked I was born 100 years too late. I would be very happy with a cabin in the woods, wood heat, and a pump for water. The 2nd Sunday of every month our church has contemporary service. This is the day Judy and I miss the most in the year. I was asked once by the pastor why we miss a lot of the contemporary services and I told him very bluntly I didn’t care for any hymns written after 1950. My favorite hymn was written by Native American Indians “Amazing Grace”. My second is a negro spiritual “Were You There”.

    In John 14:2 Jesus said “In my fathers mansion are many rooms”. I have always hoped when I “cross-over” there will be a place that will be 1960’s Seymour where eternal life will be as innocent as those times of my youth and the hymns will be played on the out of tune piano of the Seymour Christian Church and we will sing to the tops of our lungs without fear of repercussions or persecution.

    Do I love the old hymns and the slower way of life—-yes. And I will make a point of seeing True Grit now.

    • Okay, Randy, knowing you 😉 , did the “out of tune piano of the Seymour Christian Church” ever accidentally play non-hymnal material when the adults were elsewhere? I seem to remember that the Promise City piano was always up for Chopstix and–if my cousin Sandy Thompson was present–Ebb Tide. C.

  4. Not really. Most of us kids that attended the Christian Church couldn’t play the piano. Plus, Thelma Cain the piano player rode a close herd on the piano when we were there.

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