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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY:   Musical Genes

© Another Day in the Country

I come from a musical family. My grandfather, Solomon Ehrhardt, played the concertina at local dances around Ramona. My father remembered going to sleep behind the stove, as a little boy, while the merriment went on in the room. He loved that memory.

My grandmother would tell the story of the Kleibers hearing their family sitting on the front porch, singing while Grandpa played, and saying how beautiful it sounded. “Keep singing,” they’d say, “Don’t stop.” I always wondered about that story because it was at least half a mile to the Kleibers’ house from the Scully farm, and I decided the wind must have been blowing in the right direction.

Dad would tell the story of singing in high school, and how he was invited to sing at the Durham Seventh-day Adventist Church. His music teacher came along to accompany him on the piano, which was quite a coup for my Dad. He sang “The Long Lost Fields of Home,” or some such tune, which left the church folks raising their eyebrows and shaking their heads since it was definitely not a religious hymn.

Mother’s family, the Schuberts, was, and still is, a musical bunch. Mom and her sister, Erna, both played the piano by ear. Mother had to learn to read music later in life. Her penchant was singing. She had a beautiful contralto voice, and her music teacher at the Ramona High School talked to her about going to Lindsborg for college, back in the day. That would have been a coup for Mom. It probably would have altered her life considerably.

The Schubert girls always sang — in church, at school, and at home while they did the dishes. The last time I heard the remainder of the nine children signing together was shortly after my sister and I moved back to Ramona.

We had a Christmas program in the Lutheran church. Timbo made the Nativity scene up front, the kids in town were the significant characters, and four Schubert siblings, all well over 80, sang “Silent Night,” in German. Uncle Hank, in a world of his own singing German, was off key. “I warned you girls,” Aunt Anna said, “He always had trouble carrying a tune.” That dilemma was a rarity with the Schuberts.

When I was 10, I took piano lessons for about a year. My mother had just gotten a marimba and she was taking lessons. She got better at the marimba than I ever did at the piano.

While Mom never went to college, she did cut a few gospel records, and thanks to her trusty tape recorder, she sang at her own memorial service. While she was a beautiful solo artist, she loved singing in groups best, and whenever we came home, she would coax us to sing with her in church. I always dreaded the practice sessions. Mom was very exacting as to how she would want a song sung and how long we would hold the notes. My sister would always comply, singing in her beautiful clear soprano. Mom would sing a low alto and I had to find my way in the middle. Often the tension of the practice sessions would get to me and I’d end up giggling or cracking a joke. Jess would laugh, Mom would get offended and Dad would say, “You girls are being sacrilegious.”

I disliked those practice sessions. It was enough to just sing and get it over with.

The Schubert cousins still carry the musical torch, singing in church choirs, playing in musical groups. Some are professional musicians including Cousin Greg who plays with a group who did the opener at the most recent River Festival in Salina.

The other day Jess was going swimming with Kristina’s family, sitting in the back seat with the kids. Our about-to-be-first-grader, Clayton, wanted her to listen to his favorite country song. “He knew ALL THE WORDS,” Jess reported to me. “I don’t know that he knew what they all meant, but he had them down.”

“When I grow up, I’m going to have a band,” Clayton told her. “I’m going to play guitar, Pat’s going to play the piano, and we’ll hire a bass player and a drummer.” Clayton and I have worked together, before. He and I practice when he comes to visit. I play the piano. He plays the drums. Him playing the guitar is a new wrinkle.

It’s another day in the country, and with this news, my mission in life is renewed. I’d better begin to brush up my keyboard skills.

Last modified Aug. 7, 2019

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