Strictly from Dixie

When I was a volunteer pianist in Madison, Wisconsin, a handful of years ago, I spent an hour each Friday afternoon, and again on Saturday morning, accompanying assisted-living residents who enjoyed singing hymns. These days, I don’t typically include religious songs in my piano programs. But sometimes an elderly listener requests a hymn and I oblige. That’s how I happened to play “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in a mid-Michigan independent-living community of retirees.

The song stirred feelings of patriotism in Lyle, a heavy-set man who had spent most of his life in South Carolina. Lyle made his way to the piano, his big loose pants held up by red suspenders, and said, “You need to follow that up with ‘Dixie’ to give equal time to the boys from the South!”

Then he gave me a brief music history lesson: During the American Civil War, soldiers in the North adopted “Battle Hymn” as their marching song; the Confederates in the South chose “I Wish I Was in Dixie” for their anthem.

Lyle was good-natured but insistent in his request, and when I played “Dixie” for him, he stood at attention with his hand on his heart. Right where the music dwelled.

Copyright © 2013 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

This entry was posted in Music and emotion, Song requests, Volunteering and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Strictly from Dixie

  1. Sandy Shores says:

    You bring so much joy to the elderly with your music, Paulette. Bless you!

  2. Judie says:

    Loved the ending!!!!

  3. Roger Wise says:

    When entertaining seniors, there always seems to be at least one old war vet in the group who appreciates hearing a patriotic song. A band I had years ago played “America the Beautiful” as our next-to-the-last song and we were elated when everybody in the audience sang along.

    • I play “America the Beautiful” around July 4th and Veterans Day, but maybe I should add it to my programs more often. You’re right, Roger, seniors do appreciate patriotic songs. “There’ll Be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover” never fails to touch audiences. Usually a few tears are shed.

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