Monday, December 24, 2012

Thank You, Mrs. Kappos

"Ever singing, march we onward..." ~ Henry Van Dyke

I grew up in one of the new suburban neighborhoods that broke out in the Fifties, with its compact houses and compact lots. Young families got new starts in this setting. Ours had a school at the end of the block and a city park less than three blocks away. And there were lots of kids so there was always someone to play ball with, or kick-the-can.

In addition to the memories from this period there were also influences. One of these was Mrs. Kappos.

I don't recall how the tradition got started. I can only assume that she and her husband took the lead and made it happen, a tradition that no doubt sparked my love of singing because every year there were Christmas carols on Christmas eve for nearly all the families on our block, followed by an after-party of hot cocoa, candy canes and cookies.

What is remarkable to me is that she would actually have us practice every week beginning in early November, right after Halloween. We'd gather and practice, not simply to learn the songs but to learn four part harmonies, and that was the best part, because there's nothing quite like learning to sing harmonies to enhance a beautiful melody.

This was the beginning for me of a lifetime of singing. In elementary school I joined the choir. In junior high I would sing all the time. I remember riding home from a Little League game in a car full of kids and I was singing as the other boys screamed for me to stop. I called my group Eddie and the Screamers. In high school I would likely have sung with a rock band had I not been so shy. But a few years later I sang in a men's quartet. I've sung at weddings, including my own, and at funerals. And when karaoke became the rage I did my share of that as well, in more than a dozen states.

My daughter's home for Christmas this year. Last year she was in China, so this year's gathering is a very special time. As we finished decorating the tree last night we sang several Christmas hymns together, a variation of a tradition we shared as a family. When our kids were growing up the place where we bought our Christmas trees was a little bit far away so that we could enjoy the lights, and also sing carols. We'd have our Christmas carol books and everyone would pipe in with gusto. I'd sing the harmonies I enjoy, jumping around from tenor to baritone depending on the key we started at.

Christina wasn't here when we got the tree ten days ago, so we saved some of the decorations for when she arrived yesterday. And we sang.

There are very few moments when I don't have a song in my head or my heart, wherever they reside. I woke this morning inwardly singing something gentle by Bon Iver. In the middle of the night I went through the three verses of Away in a Manger several times.

Music is a gift that can bring both joy and comfort, aesthetic pleasure and something more. Thank you, Mrs. Kappos, for the memories you planted in us and this love of singing.

Photo courtesy John Heino Photography

No comments: