Harmony in Song

I don’t cry during Hallmark commercials or when the violins swell in movies. That sort of stuff just doesn’t move me in the way I know it is meant to. But sometimes, out of the blue, I find myself overwhelmed with emotion which is exactly what happened yesterday:


I attended an event, “Harmony in Song,” here in my little county in central Virginia. There’s not much integration in the small country churches down South, but for the past ten years black and white churches in my county have been coming together for an annual celebration of faith in song. One year it’s held in a traditionally white church, the next in a black one. This year was at the black Baptist church just down the road from The Barn.

Good Catholic girls know how to behave in church. I know to stand up when the priest says “All rise” and I sing along happily with the hymns. What could be that different?

First up was a small group from the local Methodist Church – all white. They wore their Sunday best and lined up with their songbooks in hand. The choir director raised her arms and they began to sing the lovely spiritual “All Day Long.” I know we all thoroughly enjoyed it based on the warm round of applause the choir received as they finished and resumed their seats in the pews.  Good so far, right?

Woo boy, here we go. Next up was the choir from the black Baptist church that was hosting the event. They arose from the pews or came in from the side doors – women in black dresses pinned with fuchsia peony brooches and the men in black suits with fuchsia ties. Their pianist started playing as they were coming up to the front of the church and they lined up, gently swaying side to side, as the piano music grew louder. The lead singer, tall and a bit imposing, took the microphone and welcomed us with the warmest smile imaginable. She called out “How y’all doing? You ready to praise Jesus?” And somebody replied from the pews “We’re ready!” (Are you allowed to do that?) Her words and the piano music just segued naturally into their choir beginning to sing.

Oh my. How to describe? I hesitate to even call it singing. They were rejoicing. It was loud, boisterous, and incredibly joyful. There was not one hint of timidity, of hesitation, of stage fright. No sir. They were here to Praise the Lord and did they ever – so powerfully and beautifully that I could feel my throat tighten almost immediately.

Yes, I was praying all right. Please, dear God, do not let me turn into a weeping, sobbing idiot right here in the middle of all these people. Grasping for tissues, I could hear people all around me starting to respond to the music calling out “Amen” and clapping and then, and then THEY started singing too. Are you allowed to do that? Then the pastor moved forward from the choir with the microphone and started telling his story while the choir was singing behind him and he exhorted everybody in the pews to SING! And then people started STANDING UP (!!) and clapping and waving their arms.

Well, let me tell you it was exhausting. And exhilarating. And so very beautiful. I just loved every single second of it.

I’d give anything to have recorded the music I heard on that joyful Sunday afternoon, but the best I can do is this version of what they sang, “Standin’ In The Need of Prayer.”


And indulge me in just one more version of what they sang:

And I can’t watch any more or I might start crying. We can’t have that, now can we?

And thanks for reading,





About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. And the odd thought or two.
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24 Responses to Harmony in Song

  1. As a lifelong Baptist, I can say Amen to the sentiments expressed in this post. Gospel music can move the soul like no other music I know. Growing up my grandmother used to take us to “a singing” or revival meetings where I witnessed many joyful hearts praising God. I am a much better person today because of it.


  2. markbialczak says:

    Barbara, you have now witnessed some true-life testifying through the power and glory of gospel music. Pretty powerful, right? I’m glad you got to share in the soul. During my two decades as music critic in Syracuse, when it was time to review a gospel concert, I was so happy.


  3. Sue Mayo says:

    Growing up in a Southern Baptist Church, I can relate to your experience. Gospel music is so powerful and has a way of bringing people together. I have fond memories of singing in the choir at a Billy Graham Crusade in Richmond in the late 50’s. Praising God in song brings people together like nothing else does.


  4. Thom Hickey says:

    Thanks. There is the sense of being lifted up and out of yourself with communal singing especially if associated with prayer and praise. Thanks for the open hearted honesty. Regards … Thom


  5. ritaroberts says:

    Absolutely Fabulous Barbara ! Need I say more except those people who sing gospel music always seem happy. It lifts the soul to a new dimension and is very moving. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience.


  6. Dianna says:

    Our little Southern Baptist church was evidently a bit more subdued…other than the occasional “Amen”. I’ve never attended a black church, but I have been to a couple of funerals for black friends. And let me tell ya: they are rejoicing! There’s NO DOUBT in their minds that their loved one is in heaven…no slow music, but rather “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder”, and other fast tempo hymns.


  7. dorothy says:

    It’s been a long time since I’ve heard “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder”, Dianna, and it brings me back to my country roots when those good old hymns were sung. It’s sad that in most of our churches today we barely know enough verse to sing along. I personally miss those roots, and it’s a good feeling to know that black churches NEVER fail to keep the faith. We need more of these roots in our society today. Thanks Barb for sharing this wonderful experience. Let me know when there’s another song fest.


  8. nrhatch says:

    Glad you enjoyed, Barbara.


  9. Audrey says:

    Sounds like an incredible experience! Black churches really let it go…I’ve never attended a black church, but I’ve “strolled by” one or two services on TV – they truly know how to “make a joyful noise”!


  10. Diane Ahlberg says:

    Perhaps if we had experienced this occasionally in our upbringing, we would not have dreaded sitting in a pew Sunday after Sunday just waiting for whatever was going on to be over.
    Gospel music is truly uplifting and with the congregation getting involved it seems to me that you leave feeling inspired as you did
    I know how you enjoy music- this must have been such an experience for you!
    Thanks for sharing


  11. Powerful and very moving. Gospel music makes me want to join in and rock out with the congregation. I love the music that you and RedneckRosarian provided – very joyful. Thanks for sharing, Barbara. 😉


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