The bell tower and the bell blew off and down into the creek bed in 1910 or so, and the bell languished in the basement of the pastorage until the new pastor, exploring with his son, found it behind a casket.
This is the oldest continuously-used church building north of the river, we’re told.
The new pastor told us about how, when he was a boy, you could stand up on the mountain and hear all the church bells ringing one after another on a Sunday morning, and what a fine sound that had been.
Not, perhaps, if you wanted to sleep in on Sunday, but I would like to hear it, myself.
It had been five or six years since the last big multi-church sing, and things have changed since then. All the churches are integrated now, and there was not a hat in the place.
You would still be well-advised, however, if you go to a big church sing at a Southern church and stay after for supper, to choose a cake made by someone named Miss Something. Miss Betty will pretty well always be better at cakes than someone merely known as “Betty.” Perhaps there is some secret process for getting “Miss” added to your name that includes cake tasting.
You will never choose a cake mix again.
The pianists were excellent. Some daft woman sang a song with a tape. She sang well enough, but I don’t know what she was thinking to prefer a tape to the quality of piano players we had that evening.
The choirs were extremely varied, and the music ranged from Lawrence Welk sappy to traditional Southern gospel to spirituals to Whitney Houston style. There was one soloist with a really lovely voice, and a couple of choirs with ragged but very traditional sounds that you don’t often hear these days.
One of the choirs had a woman who sounded like a steam whistle every time she got above an A, and the rest of the voices so quavery with age that it was hard to guess what note they had in mind, but they sang with such joy and dedication that you could not help but smile.
At one point all the choirs joined together for a hymn medley, led by the director from the oldest church. Not the one whose bell tower we were helping; this church dated from before statehood, but has been in quite a number of different buildings over that time. The director did not appear to know how to conduct. She seemed to be dancing, with highly emotional arm waving and lots of hand gestures that had no meaning. She was not perhaps that useful as a director, but she was fun to watch.
A couple of the directors directed from the piano, and one of them took a solo while directing and playing the accompaniment. Our director was, I would say, the second most skillful of them all, so I was proud of him.
It was fun.