Those God-given Talents: Music

I think I was born whistling. I can thank James Smith Turner II (and whoever passed it to him!) for that--he always had a tune on his lips, as often expressed in a whistle as in any other way. As to whether it is ladylike to whistle . . . that's something I don't even concern myself about, for to stifle all whistling would be like a death-sentence to me.  That my husband is not keen to hear whistling--well, that's something I get around by being very QUIET about it. For there is ALWAYS a tune that bubbles up and wants to be given expression. On one of our visits to my brother Jonathan's in Germany in recent years, a whistle must have escaped my lips, for my sister-in-law, Marina, pounced on it and, somewhat fiercely, said: "That's EXACTLY the way Jonathan whistles!" Then I knew . . . :)

I am actually proud and pleased that my Scottish father passed on his musicality to me.  He played a bit of the bagpipes as a kid, and took up the recorder in later years, which he handled impressively and would use to do duets, with Mother on the piano.  There wasn't much going in the way of musical instruments (we won't put the pipes, perhaps, in that class) in Father's background, but he had music in the pores of his skin.  He was always very pleased that we children learned to play the piano. Now I wish I had taught him how to play it. 

Father was into music theater in a way I never have been, though. He played main parts in all the Gilbert & Sullivan he could get his hands on (in Glasgow); and also sounded lovely in a Messiah chorus at Dornoch Cathedral in Sutherland.  I have loved to sing in choirs (our 3rd grade Gaelic Chorus, and the St Andrews Chapel Choir especially) and have often felt so restless when not involved in one that I would travel anywhere, any distance to do so. My singing voice came, my mother said, from her mother, Grandmother Nellie Bartlett. Mother always remembered her sonorous tones ringing out during the hymns sung at Mother and Father's wedding in the old Bighton church. When I was relieved of my duties vis-a-vis Cub Scouts recently, I remember telling someone with a bit of a smile that I would be most happy now just to be able to magnify my calling as a genealogy consultant, plus perhaps take "a little music job." . Well, I got it, just this month--ward chorister.  And I'm determined to give it what I've got (including "belting it out" when advisable) and to enjoy it.  I have missed serving with music, not able any more to trust myself in a choir.

People with music skills generally get pressed quite predictably into service, and it can be a joy.  Early on I remember getting a lot of satisfaction out of the foot-pump organ at St. Callan's chruch in Rogart (they were so hard up for accompanists I was pressed into service at twelve).  I have enjoyed especially, impromptu conducting opportunities for programs and special services. I have accompanied in about every way possible, including pedal organ--not always very well, but I have tried my best. In Guatemala City on our mission I was needed to accompany congregation and chorus on the piano. This fact led to miracles when I was asked by the mission president to share some words with the training missionaries.

I also taught keyboard and piano at the Church office building in G.C., and rewarding it was.  I well remember the final concert we held there.  The guests seemed to be in place--but where were the students?  One, a young employee of extraordinary talent and interest who had been excited to be placed first on the program to show off his considerable accomplishment, had been chasing down his mom and family when he realized they wouldn't know where to come in the building.  The next on the program, the daughter of one of the local Authorities, had gotten caught in traffic, we surmised. Something else had happened, I think, to the three children of the employee on the top floor . . . Well, it eventually came together, and we had a wonderful time, even if tinged with sadness because it would be our last time to be together. The most surprising people brought gifts, gave hugs and kisses. Sweet. The next Sunday we senior missionaries were transported to a regional church building for some reason. As we sat waiting, first one and then a couple of others of my wonderful students who happened to be there came up and gave me the biggest hug imaginable.  It was all worthwhile--crummy language skills and all. (The first time I taught, instead of the "fluent" Spanish I had rehearsed over and over, what came out of my mouth in the heat of the moment had been a mixture of French and German!)

In Haiti I had gotten my first taste of "teaching" keyboard. The students we had were borrowing the latest of over 80 Church-owned instruments that had been loaned out (most never came back).  This time there was a much more accomplished pianist present who loved to teach--and I was most happy just to translate for her.  It was a breeze!

Some of my favorite music experiences have been with my children, as they have learned their instrument. Attending Nikkala's Wind Symphony concerts was really neat. I practiced hard to be able to accompany Roger well in his trumpet solos. And Carolyn and I were able to share a huge musical experience when she learned the piano by the Suzuki method.  That was very sweet. But one interesting talent-stretcher was a little gift I discovered for composing nursery songs, which stood me in good stead when gaining my teaching certificate. I can still compose a song at the drop of a hat, and often do so just for fun!

But perhaps the most unusual tapping of talent came back in Vienna, Austria, just after I joined the LDS Church. As Tanzleiterin in MIA, one of my duties was to choreograph the formation dancing for the upcoming Gold & Green Ball--and, as this was Vienna, you can be sure that the standards were exacting!  Deloy and I actually left Vienna before the event took place, but the Young Women's leader wrote that they had preserved my choreography in its entirety as a tribute to me.  Sweeties.

Well, that's definitely enough about that subject.













Russell and Arlis Hutchinson
Ellen Ford Her Story


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