November 20, 2009

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

The appreciation and joy of music, music, music

Shirley Vogler MeisterOne day last summer, I glanced out the front window to see teenage girls walking down the street, dancing and gesturing.

They were obviously singing, but I could hear nothing. I opened the storm door, expecting to hear them singing contemporary music. Then I realized that two boys behind them were singing, too.

They were thoroughly enjoying themselves, but the music wasn’t current.

They were singing the “musical scales” song from the delightful 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music, a popular stage play and film.

In that musical, a Catholic widower, Captain Georg Ludwig von Trapp, hires a nanny/teacher, Maria Kutschera, to care for and educate his seven children.

At the time, she was discerning religious life at a Benedictine convent.

Maria teaches the children to sing with the clever use of words to explain the musical scale—“Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do.”

Captain von Trapp and Maria fall in love and are married. Later, the von Trapp family escapes to Switzerland when Nazis threaten their safety during the years leading up to World War II.

In real life, the von Trapp family was able to immigrate to the United States, and they became very well known and held in high esteem.

As for the neighborhood teenagers, they were singing that “Do-Re-Mi” song with vigor.

Imagine the thrill that I felt knowing that even young people today appreciate the simplicity and beauty of this stunning piece of entertainment—a hit from the early years of my marriage!

My memory of the teenagers smiling and singing happily will stay with me.

Music from most eras can move me to tears or fill me with delight or take my breath away or mellow a somber mood.

In fact, I’m as happy at a baroque concert as I am at a blues performance, bluegrass jam, symphonic program, choral presentation, ethnic or Native American program, and everything in between. I embrace most types of music.

In May, the 175th anniversary celebration of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis was the epitome of excellent music of all types. What a blessing and thrill it was to be a part of that historic and extraordinary Mass.

By the same token, I’m also in awe of the musicians in my parish and in other Catholic churches that bring beautiful music to the Mass and other celebrations of life.

I’ve loved music since my childhood years when I would listen to it on the radio and hear my mother sing as she worked around our home. Mom and Dad also took us to professional musicals and parish performances. At one time, we inherited an antique wind-up Victrola from my father’s mother.

My husband, Paul, sings with our parish’s Resurrection Choir and the Indianapolis Maennerchor, but my singing voice is not consistently viable because of complications from myasthenia gravis.

Years ago, when I was a student at a Catholic high school, I played the trombone. I have given that instrument to my 9-year-old grandson so he can learn how to play the beautiful sounds of music.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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