Part 3 (Georgia on my mind)

Continued from part 2.

So I returned and started college in the fall.  I had been accepted as a music education major.  All music students had to have a principal instrument.  Since there wasn’t a guitar teacher, it was decided that my instrument would be voice. That was fine with me too as I had always sung in the choir at our church and took choral music as an elective in junior and senior high school.  In one way or another I had been singing all my life and still do.

It also was an excellent way to learn a lot of the religious repertoire which contains some of the greatest music ever written: We did the St. Mathew Passion by J.S. Bach along with various cantatas, the Creation by Haydn, the Verdi Requiem and Le Roi David by Honegger along with liturgical music from various historic periods.  In voice lessons, we learned songs in French, German and Italian although we tended to specialize in one language other than English.  I chose French.

Since there was no orchestra at the college, and an ensemble experience was both essential and required, we all had to sing in the chapel choir.  The chapel was non-denominational so that during the year we performed repertoire from a variety of religious confessions.

My family church was just down the street from the college and choir director asked me to continue while I was in college.  So I had three choir rehearsals a week and on Sunday mornings I would sing at the college, slip out of my robe, quickly walk the three or four blocks to the church, slip into another and be ready for the processional.  It was like that for four years.  At the end of my studies, I concluded that I had lifted my voice enough to the heavens. Thereafter, the eternal ones were going to have to be satisfied with guitar music.

Finally, I was off to Washington D.C. to study guitar.  I made the arrangements and was so eager to go that I didn’t stay the few days needed to celebrate Christmas with my family.  They saw my impatience and encouraged me to set forth.  So I loaded the 1949 Plymouth that I was driving at the time with all the belongings that I thought I would need and at dusk turned out of the driveway.     When I left, I noticed that my mother was wiping tears from her face.  For me, I was off on an adventure.  She knew that I was leaving home.

For some reason I wasn’t afraid.  It was an interesting trip north on old Highway One.  I had been especially cautioned to pay attention going through Georgia because the police were reputed use any excuse to extract a heavy fine.  I didn’t have the problem.  In the dark it was like driving through a tunnel.  There were the odors of the paper mills. Many animals and birds appeared in the headlights.  I managed not to kill any.  In many of the small towns I went through, there was only one crossroad which had a blinking red and yellow light that cast an eerie glow on the buildings which appeared and disappeared from view.

In Georgia, I started noticing signs which advertised a hotel with a Mexican theme somewhere south of the some border.  It turned out to be just before the border which crossed over into North Carolina.  The signs were really corny and were meant to be.     I tried to stop and sleep along the way, but was too excited.  By morning I was in North Carolina and in Washington D.C. in the afternoon.  I never returned home to live, only to visit.

Washington D.C. in 1965 was a really great place.  There were still a lot of dwellings that only went up three or four stories, a town of human dimensions.  There was, and still is, a lovely park that runs through the center of town from top to bottom.  Also, there was a canal and tow path that went all the way out to West Virginia.  It is still there too, but nature has been pushed out and the surrounding area has been infested by banal suburbs and the commercial sleaze that followed along. It is astonishing how quickly it happened.

Compared with the town I grew up in, D.C. was a great place for live music.  The jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd was a regular feature at the Show Boat not too far from DuPont Circle. DuPont Circle itself throbbed every evening in a cacophony of guitars, drums and whatever.  It was a great place to go sit and mellow out.  Washington had and still has a symphony orchestra along with all kinds of musical happenings.  Somebody at this point will probably bring up the greater advantages New York City (There’s always one in every crowd), but D.C. was enough to keep me occupied.

I soon found a place to stay and went about organizing a life.  Robert was there and it was decided that I would study with him.  His teacher had more students than he knew what to do with.  There was also a guitar ensemble that met one night a week in which I was accepted as a new member.  Not only was it good training, but I established numerous friendships that have lasted until the present day.

Continue to Part 4.


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