I was asked several weeks ago to take part in Patriots Sunday at the Zion UCC in Allentown, the very place where the Liberty Bell was hidden from the English during the Revolution. I have a history with these folks, having been commissioned to write a song for the celebration of this event a few years ago. I came up with The Ballad of the Jubilee Bell.
Today’s event was a celebration of the 50th birthday of Up With People, a choral group that did patriotic pieces during the turbulent 60’s with some very good songs about Freedom, Paul Revere and other themes. I had worked up a bunch of the tunes with Jane, the choir director and fireball, and then tried them out with the small choir, pianist, percussionist et al. I was glad that I didn’t have to lead the songs, but found my valuable niche in my strong rhythm guitar. There were several rehearsals, one with Jane and another with some of the group, so it was a labor-intensive effort on my part, especially considering my small honorarium. But, that not why I take these gigs on.
I got to play The Ballad of the Jubilee Bell as part of the presentation with the lyrics up on a ‘jumbotron’ screen in the front of the sanctuary. That was a little unnerving, especially since the pastor’s version of the song was different than mine. I was glad he sent me the file so I could adapt to his version. A first time for every thing.
The song came off well, even though I don’t play it out much, or play it often. But, by now, I can present the song with oomph.
After the service, a lady came up to me in colonial dress. She was part of the regiment that reenacts this stuff, both men and women, on hand for a memorial outside the church after the ceremony. She said that she teared up during the song, moved by the words and music.
I wrote the song in present tense, as if the hiding of the bell was happening now. The effect was apparently good, since this lady said that the song was point on, accurate and powerful. I don’t write many songs, and this one is rarely appropriate in most of my performance situations, so I was quite amazed with her reaction.
It was a good morning at church, and though a long service, there was community going on full throttle. I was glad I was asked to participate.