Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Musical Dave


I started clarinet lessons in 4th grade. Fast forward 8 years. When I was graduated from high school (1949) I had played most all of the single-reed woodwinds. Going into my senior year, in the fall of 1948, I auditioned and was accepted for the b-flat and e-flat alto clarinet player in the St. Louis concert orchestra. That same year I was playing clarinet and alto sax in a swing dance band we named The StarDreamers.

Then I went to college and gave up music cold turkey in favor of a part-time job and a tough electrical engineering curriculum. And beer drinking, if I must be truthful.

Back to my early days. Our family worshiped at Webster Groves Presbyterian Church, suburban Saint Louis, and I dated the daughter of the organist and music director (not really relevant).

My dad sang bass in the choir; he was a singing man. In those days men sang with gusto, in church, in the service clubs, and in the bath tub or shower. Service clubs, like Rotary, Kiwanis or Lions, were all male. I remember going to an occasional Kiwanis meeting with dad and listening to forty-some presumably adult men singing enthusiastically everything from God Bless America to Old MacDonald had a farm, ee-eye, ee-eye-o.

When I moved my family to Quincy in 1965, I joined Rotary East and at that time they were still singing. A decade later our Rotary club singing had stopped, at least with gusto. But that is another story.

I enjoy singing the tenor and bass parts to hymns, or at least I used to until my voice succumbed to age. My college singing included a fraternity glee club. In those halcyon days, real men sang. What the ladies thought about it I do not know.

What about the generation of my grandchildren? They all listen to music, mostly vocal. The genre is mostly contemporary rock. Along about 1980 I got involved in helping start a new Christian radio station, WGCA-FM (The Mix). I had two reasons, to help proclaim the gospel to the teens-to-thirties cohort, and to learn more about contemporary Christian music.

At Faith Presbyterian Church we regularly attend the “second service,” which is our attempt to experience the world of contemporary Christian music and worship. The jury is still out.

At age 82, I still listen to WGCA The Mix while I’m driving around town. I sometimes wonder if I will live long enough to learn to like what I hear. I’m afraid my heart is still with the great hymns of the church that have stood the test of time. If I just could still sing them . . . .

Dave, crotchety about my music.


8 Responses to “Musical Dave”
  1. Linda says:

    my music man dad… who knew? I knew you played sax, but didn’t know you were good enough on clarinet to be in the St. Louis concert orchestra! Pretty impressive. Too bad your eldest daughter did not inherit your clarinet playing gene. I played for 2 years then broke my arm the summer after 5th grade… and was secretly glad to have a great excuse to quit! Perhaps your #2 daughter did better, Laura was in marching band!
    As for your grandkids’ taste in music… ask Kyle…. I think you would be surprised. There are a lot of us out here in your family who love the old hymns, love jazz music and classical. I doubt any of us sing with gusto however. I did record one of Kyle’s sermons and had to chuckle as his voice came through loud and clear and mostly on key as he led the hymns! And just for the record… we were at a museum in Portland and Karen asked what to do with the funny needle thing on an old record player. Oh my!

  2. Larry Ayers says:

    Great stories, Dad! I had no idea that you had played in a dance band. Nice to hear more about your father; I never knew that he was a ‘singing man’.

    My musical life has been the opposite of yours, as I didn’t play much when I was young — but the older I get, the more I play (and listen).

  3. Leslie says:

    This was a great essay, Dad! New info I hadn’t heard (or forgotten) – St. Louis Concert Orchestra? Singing with gusto at Rotary? Christian Radio? Great to hear those things about my musical Dad. And I remember a musical upbringing, hearing Larry practice his trombone, Linda and Laura practice the clarinet, and well my flute days didn’t last long. I complained it tickled my lips if I recall, and I was painful to listen to.

    So, for me it was singing with gusto! And I always knew I got it from you Dad, because i have fond memories of listening to your voice singing hymns at church. Those hymns still have a soft spot in my heart. I remember my alto and your bass blending together back in the day.

    Linda, I enjoyed your comments about Kyle, way to go, Kyle! Yes, the jazz and classical live on!

  4. Dave says:

    Kinda makes you wonder what other stuff you don’t know about your dad?

  5. Linda says:

    Yes Dad… keep writing, we want to know! I’m wondering. What I don’t know about my dad!

  6. Dave says:

    Curiosity killed the cat, you know.

    With a little encouragement, your left coast sis had some interesting things to say…by email. I further encouraged her to do same here with a comment. Clue her in, you guys.

  7. Judy Fretwell-Gottman says:

    Well, I need to chime in and tell you all that I enjoyed learning several new things about you, Dave. Clarinet player in St Louis orchestra at age 17, swing band at that same young age. That is very impressive. A good thing to know about you.

    Clarinet was my instrument of choice in High School and for a couple of
    years in college. The old original instrument is still in pretty good shape. A couple of years ago I took it to Gus at the music store downtown for a little rehab. The people in my family are all surprised to learn that I can still play well enough, and have enough breath to do the melody in rhythm band with my Granddaughter and her cousins.

    Linda, Leslie and Larry: your Dad is my mentor and our “go-to” resource for the Faith Presbyterian Church website project. We are very fortunate to have his expertise. I’m no “spring chicken” either. I must say, it’s fun having someone a little older than me from whom to learn about internet technology. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with and learn from him.

  8. Dave says:

    Many thanks for chiming in, Judy. You are welcome, and keep the pads on your old clarinet soft and supple. I’m not sure of the fate of my instruments, I’m afraid.

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