Thursday, January 24, 2019

Singing--the Joy of My Life

Singing for church in 1965
Singing has been the joy of my life. It has also comforted me in the hard times. Although I am recognized now more for my writing, during my earlier years, I was known for my singing. I majored in vocal music in college.

My family is very musical, especially gifted in singing. In fact, my parents were at the piano in the church sanctuary preparing a special song for the worship service when my father proposed.

My maternal great-grandfather was playing the organ for church by the time he was nine. My mother's father played trombone even into his nineties. My mother's older brother could pick up an instrument and  play it in no time. As captain of a mission boat for many years, he led singing with his accordion and was also quite accomplished on the clarinet, though he had never taken lessons.

My mother had a lovely soprano voice, played the piano and violin, and wrote songs and cantatas, both the words and the lyrics. As a child, I loved to listen to her play the piano and sing hymns to wake us up from our Sunday afternoon naps so we could get ready to go to church that night. In spite of Parkinson's in her later years, she played the piano from her wheelchair until just a few weeks before she died at the age of 89.

My father's father, a basso perfundo (a deep bass), sang in a well-known madrigal group in Philadelphia, as well as in his Methodist church choir. My father, a boy soprano, sang in the prestigious Episcopal Boys Choir in Philadelphia until his voice changed to tenor. He is now 97 and still sings.

My husband and I got to know each other as we sang in the a capella concert choir, the Choir of the North, at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. He sang bass and I, soprano. We have sung together throughout our married life. I have served as minister of music in the churches we pastored.

Playing the piano for church in Gloversville
My son and his family have excellent singing voices too. This past Christmas Eve in their home, the whole family sang the Christmas carols a capella in four-part harmony. We sounded like a well-rehearsed choir. All four of my grandsons have starred in the high school musicals and soloed in the choirs. They play guitars and piano.

Me on my first birthday
When I was a year old, my father was studying for the ministry at Eastern Bible Institute (EBI) in Green Lane, Pennsylvania, now the University at Valley Forge. My parents often took me to chapel services with them. My mother told me that whenever the students sang the hymns, I would listen to the words and then belt out each line so loudly that they had to wait for me to finish before they could sing the next line.

My father's parents lived in Philadelphia. Whenever we had a chance, we drove down from EBI to visit them. Every Sunday morning, my grandfather would listen to the coast-to-coast radio broadcast of the Old Fashioned Revival Hour with Dr. Charles Fuller. Every broadcast began with the theme song Dr. Fuller had written,"Heavenly Sunshine." Soon, I was tripping around the house singing, "Heabenly sunshine, heabenly sunshine...."

Heavenly sunshine, heavenly sunshine,
Flooding my soul with glory divine;
Heavenly sunshine, heavenly sunshine,
Hallelujah! Jesus is mine!

As a brother and sister were added to my family, we children began singing a trio in Christmas programs. When I was in kindergarten,  Mother wrote a children's Christmas song for my brother,  sister, and me to sing, "I Wish I Could Have Been There."

I wish I could have been there those many years ago;
I wish I could have been there beside the manger low;
I would have seen the shepherds come to worship Christ their King;
But best of all I would have seen my Savior, Lord, and King.

Verse 2, same as above except for third line:
I would have seen the Wise Men come their offerings to bring.

Verse 3.
I know I couldn't be there those many years ago,
I know I couldn't be there beside the manger low,
But this I know that some day soon beside His throne I'll sing,
And best of all I'll get to see my Savior, Lord, and King!

                                         ©1991 AnnaMae Cousart 

At that time, my parents were operating a children's home in Juneau, Alaska. A young Eskimo woman and her baby lived in the home for a while. She taught us how to sing the chorus, "Into My Heart," in Eskimo. That song had special meaning to me because when I was 5, I asked Jesus to come into my heart.

When our church started a junior choir, I became its most faithful member. One junior choir song that sticks in my memory is "Prayer Is the Key:" "Prayer is the key to heaven, but faith unlocks the door..."

At the age of 9, I was asked to sing the hymn, "The Way of the Cross Leads Home," my first solo for the Sunday morning worship service. My mother had always felt like her voice had lost a certain quality after I was born. As I sang in church that morning, my father whispered to her, "There's your voice!"

By the time I was 11, I was singing trios with my parents and duets with my junior choir director, as well as solos. My mother began to coach me in singing. When my parents began to pastor churches, they often asked me to sing in services or fill in for my mother on the piano.

I have a 3 1/2 by 5 1/4 inch loose leaf notebook filled with typed words of the solos I sang from my teenage years on through my life. As I look through those songs today, It's like reading a diary of my life. I can still recall when I first sang each song and what it meant to me then. In my next few blog post, I will share some of those stories.

What hymn or song brings back a special memory to you?


  1. AnnaLee, thanks for sharing about your and your family's musical abilities.

    Seeing the photo of you as a teenager reminded me of the first time I heard you sing when we were on our tour to the UN in 1961. You sang "How Great Thou Art" as a seniors' home I think in Maryland or Pennsylvania. It was the first time I had heard that hymn and you sang it so beautifully.

    Music is indeed a lifelong gift that we can cherish. I am privileged to be ale to still sing in a men's chorus and we sing to senior's homes and in our church. Just being able to sing each week as we practise is a blessing.

  2. Yes, I remember singing "How Great Thou Art" at that seniors' home. That song is the last duet I sang with Bob for my aunt's funeral She met our tour in New York and sailed around the Statue of Liberty with us. Then she brought my grandparents to meet up with us again when we toured Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia. Great memories. My little notebook of songs also brings back so many memories. Allergies have taken their toll on my voice so I don't sing solos anymore. I so miss that!