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Reveries of the solitary jog-walker

by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief –

I run/walk early and alone.

I enjoy the clear, sharp freshness of a new day. Few things inspire me more than to greet the mystery of the dawn and marvel at its beauty, its promise and predictability. Could something as wonderful as this ever have happened by accident?

Let’s not mess it up!

My morning run takes a common course, well known to me with no surprises. I need not think about where to turn or struggle to remember my back trail. I seek to use the time for contemplation, problem analysis, ideas for the future—a time for deep thoughts. Here is my reservoir for future action.

There are a few others on the path. We nod and smile as we pass. They become a small company of fellow travelers. Often, they too, are alone.

Nothing interrupts my reverie—until…

Did you ever get a melody stuck in your mind to such an extent that it ran on and on and on and you just couldn’t shake free from it—more than lingering in the brain, it seems to take over your entire cognitive processes—swallowing up the reverie with words and rhythm that take over the length of your stride and the focus of your being—just like this sentence—running on and on.

It happens to me on my morning jog-walk. The blood is flowing, my heart rate is up, the endorphins shoot and confront the pain, and thought flows wonderfully—until this melody takes over.

The music of my brain is the trio of Ray Ogg’s march, “Rousseau.” I always wondered why he named it after this important 18th century writer whose views on freedom and justice were so important to the framers of The Declaration of Independence and the writers of this nation’s Constitution.

In earlier years children sang a bit of doggerel to this very catchy melody. The lyrics attached to the melody, similar to many nursery rhymes of the period, seem to communicate some shocking news:

Go tell Aunt Rhodie,
Go tell Aunt Rhodie
Go tell Aunt Rhodie
The old gray goose is dead.

As these words continued to impose themselves on me during my run, I wondered: “Just who is Aunt Rhodie? Why is it so important that she be notified? Who is giving the order—maybe a hungry uncle? Who is the message carrier—a niece or nephew? And even more important, just who is the old gray goose?

Trying to force the melody from me, I contemplate on why Ray Ogg would choose to feature this melody as the trio to a march that has easily become one of the most often recorded marches in the literature, and one of the finest compositions of its type in the Army’s rich archive of marches. I’d never heard it sung in a Salvation Army meeting. A number of possibilities struck me. One, he couldn’t shake it from his mind, either; two, it was a song he remembered from somewhere and saw the march as an exercise; three, he wanted to test himself to explore what he could do with the melody.

None of this worked more than a few seconds. The melody was locked into my brain, and so, too, were the words.

Frustrated, I decided to re-write the lyrics to make them more appropriate for my favorite march. If I had to have the melody and the lyrics constantly in my mind, I might as well give it words more relevant than the death of an old gray goose. So many people seemed to know the lyric that I determined my new words should relate to the original words. This is what I came up with:

Go tell the people,
Go tell the people,
Go tell the people
That Jesus is alive.
(The melody bridges)
He lives in my heart,
And I speak with him daily
He triggers my conscience
And tells me when I stray.
So, go tell the people,
Go tell the nation,
Go tell the world
That Jesus Christ still lives.

I felt very proud. Then, with the help of Martin Hunt, I found Song #492 in the Army Song Book. It directed me to the tune book #314—and guess what—the tune was written by Rousseau.

Charles Wesley wrote the lyrics to song #492. The first verse prays:
If so poor a soul as I
May to thy great glory live,
All my actions sanctify,
All my words and thoughts receive;
Claim me for thy service, claim
All I have and all I am.

I did a little research and discovered that Rousseau had written a very successful opera called Le Devin du Village (The Village Soothsayer) and performed it initially at the court of Louis XV. In exploring the website operatoday.com, I discovered that the King was so taken with Colette’s entrance song that he sang it throughout the entire next day—off key.

I think I know the melody for that song, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who has fixated on it.

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