The Beatles deserve credit for a good chunk of my early music education. They sat on the floor of my friend Lori’s bedroom when I was five years old. Squeezed between Hank Williams, Tony Orlando, and various other artists; Paul, John, Ringo, and George waited to teach me vocal harmonies.
Lori owned a stack of hand-me-down 45’s – several hours worth of music her teenage cousins had “outgrown”:
- Please Please Me/ From Me to You
- I Want to Hold Your Hand/ I Saw Her Standing There
- Can’t Buy Me Love/ You Can’t Do That
- Ticket to Ride/ Yes It Is
- And I Love Her/ If I Fell
- All My Loving/ This Boy
- Love Me Do/ P.S. I Love You
- She Loves You/ I’ll Get You
Those harmonies still ring in my ears. “If there’s anything that you want. If there’s anything I could do.” The Fab Four were speaking a language I had heard before. The dialect was different, but the language of harmony had already been introduced to me in the Church of Christ.
Gasp! No piano? No guitar? No trumpet? No violin? No drums? No organ? No choir? Not even a harp? But the angels use harps!
Not if that angel is in the Church of Christ section of heaven, he doesn’t! (Whenever you hear a commercial or movie signifying heaven by the lovely “Ahhh” in four-part harmony, the C of C angels are representin’.)
When I talk to people who have never attended a Church of Christ service, they seem to feel sorry for me that I endured instrument-less music. They imagine it as odd, un-fun, and awkward. But, the truth is, it’s beautiful – “it” the music, “it” the conception.
Everybody sings. No voice hides. People learn to read and follow music. New harmonies are invented and old harmonies are perfected. You’ve never really heard “It is Well with My Soul” until you’ve heard it sung a cappella.
Sopranos, openly and freely: “It is well.”
Altos, Tenors, & Basses rumbling, in agreement, overlapping the Sopranos: “It is well.”
Sopranos & Altos, in deliberate dissonance: “With my soul.”
Tenors & Basses: “With my soul.” Dissonance resolved.
Everyone: “It is well.” Swelling. “It is well . . .” Fortissimo, in full harmony. “. . . with my soul!”
I have since spent time in other denominations. I have played piano in churches. I have sung with organs and orchestras. I have sung in praise teams with drum kits and microphones. I have even worn a choir robe (and, just for a moment, I felt like I was going to get swallowed by the earth).
But I have never, ever heard a better version of “It is Well with My Soul.” Nor have I forgotten the power of those harmonies coming from Lori’s record player. It’s “with love from me to you” that I thank a very odd pair – The Beatles and the Church of Christ – for teaching me to harmonize. My music and my life are all the better for it.
– Anita, Noted in Nashville