April 1, 2014

Mark Millican: There’s nothin’ like a good singin’

It wasn’t one of those bucket list things-to-do, because you understand of course, I’m far too young to be making such a checklist. But it was another one of those events I’ve always wanted to take in.

Perhaps a disclaimer is necessary here: Your humble scribe has never had, and never will have, a melodic singing voice, at least this side of heaven. So when Teresa — who could have sung opera with the right training — and I attended the Quarterly Singing Convention at Smyrna Baptist Church in Ramhurst Saturday night, I mostly just listened.

But “marveled” might be a better word. As the men and women and boys and girls who filled the church took turns singing the upper and lower parts of the gospel standards, I was struck by how tight and robust and joyously the voices rang out. It took me back in years to when the Gospel Singing Jubilee and Mull Singing Convention aired on Chattanooga TV. I’m dating myself here, but who could forget The Chuck Wagon Gang, The Happy Goodmans and The Florida Boys, among others?

We also experienced what I believe was the sweetest version ever performed of “Amazing Grace” by a skilled pianist and young man on the fiddle. And there were some obligatory and good-hearted remarks from the Baptists and Methodists in attendance about each other’s denominations.

The convention in Ramhurst actually capped off a good week of singings for my beloved and me. We had attended a “Date Night” sponsored by Family Frameworks — a marriage enhancement ministry — in Dalton at Studio 123 owned by Rock Bridge Community Church a week before. It featured Michael O’Brien, formerly of the group Newsong.

Some Ellijay residents will remember Newsong well. They played there often in the mid- to late-1980s at the Moving the Mountains Youth Rally held at the Gilmer High football stadium. This was before they hit the Contemporary Christian scene big time and lost their quartet appeal, in my humble opinion. As we listened raptly to this innovative pianist and songwriter, I also thought back to other Mountain acts like The Mid-South Boys with their distinctive country-gospel sound, and keyboardist Jerome Olds from May-retta, er, Marietta.

The night after that we went to a sing-along at my Mom’s church, Trinity United Methodist. My old friend Dan Sluder, who has taught Sunday school for years at Holly Creek Baptist in Chatsworth, was there with his trio, and there were other singers and groups as well. The spirit was contagious there as it was at the other two venues.

Now that we’ve sat in with the Baptists and Methodists, we’re going to look for a Pentecostal sing-along. Yep, there’s nothin’ like a good singin’!

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