No shelf life
by Terry Camsey, Major –
Here we are again. Christmas approaches and the advertising and sales have started before Thanksgiving has begun. Our local Hallmark store seems to be continually months ahead of the myriad events they focus on during the year—changing the products and cards to match the season. It hardly seems Easter is over before they are preparing for Thanksgiving—and as shelves are being cleared of Thanksgiving stuff (should that be “stuffing” I wonder!), Christmas products immediately replace them.
We keep bringing the anticipation of these events further and further forward. Maybe we just need someone to declare January as “All Celebrations Month” so that we can stock up in advance leaving time to actually enjoy each season.
Mind you, I am not against cards. There seems to be such a great choice these days for almost any circumstance, and so many of the verses seem spot on. In these busy times, it is less time-consuming than writing a letter and does offer a more personal touch than an e-card. They probably have increased communication, too.
But Christmas approaches and, once again, the memories start to flood back of previous Christmases. When Beryl and I soldiered at Upper Norwood Corps in London, way back in the late 1960s, the songsters, as well as the band, used to go out caroling at night. One of the highlights each year was for us to sing “In the bleak midwinter” around a telephone kiosk while our leader, Lt. Colonel Bernard Adams, phoned Harold Darke, the composer, so that he could listen. Harold was very old at the time, and it was a joy to give back to him the gift that he gave the world in this beautiful carol that, sadly, many may not know.
We are blessed to have Ivor Bosanko play the piano as a preliminary to Sunday morning meetings at our corps. Last Sunday he, with his usual sensitivity, played a selection of Army songs including “The Stranger of Galilee,” “Someday I’ll see his blessed face,” Jesus, Jesus, Lily of the valley,” and “In the secret of thy presence.” I doubt if many of the congregation knew the songs, and I found myself silently weeping in grief for a lost heritage.
Even the Army classic songs of more recent years have a short shelf life. It wasn’t always so. Our parents and their parents before them passed down to us an appreciation of God’s special gift to the Army in the form of the fruit of composers and writers. We used the Army songbook frequently. So much so that, in almost any circumstance, we find ourselves—over four decades later—remembering words that comfort us, that we can share with others in need of reassurance.
I know I represent a previous generation (although those who know me well are aware that I have a deep appreciation for the emerging generations of today) when change was slower and not so jarring. And, I guess, that—since I have already had my three score and ten years—time is even more precious, yet it seems to pass all the more quickly. I certainly cannot abide any time wasted that detracts from my specific calling.
But it seems to me that today, Army musicians—soloists, bands, songster brigades—are more interested in having something new, never published, and that no one else has, than in playing a key role in saving (savoring, and helping others to savor) musical gems from the past. We have a rich heritage of such literature that is gathering more dust with every year that passes.
When I write a selection for band, I carefully select songs to include that tell a story and illustrate a theme. At the same time I am not unaware that many, maybe most, listeners today would not even recognize the tunes, let alone the words.
But that’s okay. I write for God and I’m quite sure he knows the words and gets the message!