Music has always played an important part of my life, especially as I was growing up in the Billheimer family. I think I was about three or four years old when I joined in with my brothers and sisters and learned "my part" in the family harmony. Now, family harmony is a little different than the typical harmonies that are learned in music classes or choir. Anyone who sings with family knows exactly what I'm talking about. The melody or lead part is always the same but there is no perfect tenor, alto or barritone. Sometimes anyone singing a part other than lead usually crosses over onto another one's part at one point ... just at the exact same time the other crosses over onto theirs. There is no written music to follow...I can't really explain it. It just happens. Somehow it just blends together perfectly. Finger nails on a chalkboard come to mind when I think of harmonies that don't blend together well...kind of like the music from the movie "Psycho"...if you follow. Many years later when I started singing in the choir at church and since I couldn't read music, I had a hard time staying on my part when I wasn't singing the melody. That's why I decided to sing soprano.
By the time I was probably about four, I had already recorded my first solo (hehe). The name of the song was "I Love My Rooster" and it was recorded in our livingroom on our family's reel-to-reel tape recording machine that weighed about 100 pounds...state-of-the-art technology, to be sure. Actually, at the time, it probably was! The following are the touching, heartfelt lyrics to that song:
I love my rooster, my rooster loves me
I cherish my rooster on the green bay tree ... (what?)
My little rooster goes cock-a-doo-doo
De-doodle-ee, doodle-ee, doodle-ee-doo
I swear, these are the words. After this first verse, it went on about a duckie that goes quack, quack, quack and a hennie that goes cluck, cluck, cluck. Really, I'm serious. I never did understand how one cherishes anything on a green bay tree. I don't even know what a green bay tree is, although they must grow somewhere in the state of Wisconsin :) All I know is the song must have bored me silly because during the recording, I was actually falling asleep...no kidding...I still have that recording to prove it. My voice would just trail off to places unknown every now and then. God bless those brothers though...they just kept on playing the accompaniment, slowing down and then speeding up to follow my every lead.
Doug and Jerry, all ready to perform
All three of my brothers played musical instruments. In fact, I think everyone one of us kids have played (or tried to play) a guitar or mandolin at one time in our lives. But the boys were our true instrumentalists. When Jerry and Doug were very young, they "toured" (I use that term loosely) with a local country-western singer from our area named Kenny Roberts and did a few performances on local TV and radio. Jerry used to have an old poster in his guitar case (I'm sure it's still there) from when he and brother Doug's performance followed the Zig-Zag Mountain Boys...I mean, we're talking about some big named talent here! In reality, it was "big time" for them! When they played their music at home, Dad would often join in on his harmonica, which he played very well. Mom just sat back and took it all in with a quiet smile.
My oldest brother, Bob, was married and living in South Carolina by then and it was always such a special treat when he and his family would come home for a visit because that meant only one thing...we would be having one of our infamous "jam sessions". When the weather was warm, we would gather out in the front yard - sitting on lawn chairs, the picnic table, the porch or where ever we could find a place. Sometimes our neighbors would come over into our yard or sit out in their own so they could enjoy the music too. Oh, it was so much fun...everyone singing and playing, acting crazy and just having a grand time! We all had our own special songs that we sang....some were solos, some duets or trios and then those that we all joined in on. Some were silly songs, some were love songs and many were hymns. When I was bit older, Janet, Barbara and I sang a Spanish love song titled "More". If we were to get together today, we could still sing every word to that song and still not pronounce them all correctly! We learned many of the songs we sang by watching "The Lawrence Welk Show" every Saturday night. The Lennon Sisters from that show were our idols. Out of all the of songs the family sang though, Mom's favorites were the hymns and sacred songs.
Doug, Bob and Jerry showing off :)
The Christmas season was without a doubt the most anticipated time of the year, at least for me when I was a little girl. On Thanksgiving Day, without fail, my family would usher in the season right by having what would become a Billheimer family tradition. Right after everyone had eaten and tummies were full, anyone who wasn't helping clean up the kitchen would find a seat in the living room and the boys would break out their instruments. We girls would chime in from the kitchen as we finished up the dishes and then made our way into the crowded space to join the others. Before too long, we had sung every Christmas song that was in our repertoire. I will never forget one certain Thanksgiving when while we were singing, the first snow of the season started to fall and by the time we were finished, the ground was covered in white! Never doubt the power of the song, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas"!
As the years passed and everyone was becoming busier with their own families, these special times of getting together became fewer and farther between. Our annual family reunions (on both Mom's and Dad's sides) were also times I remember looking forward to, knowing that we would all be together to sing as a family and the anticipation of it all thrilled me. These days, I don't get to enjoy those get togethers very often since moving away from Ohio in 1981. They are more special to me now than ever before.
Janet, me and Barb singing at church
Today, music still plays a major role in all of our lives. Bob was minister of music in his church for many years and still has a prison ministry. He has worked up many different musical monologues that he performs which also opens the door to share the love of Christ with them. Jerry is currently and has been the worship leader at his church for many years as well. Doug and his wife, Iris, along with their daughters when they were young, sang together as "The Billheimer Family"....what a unique name! He has also written many really good gospel songs that are yet unpublished. Maybe someday, right Doug? Janet had lead roles in musicals in her high school days and in later years went on to become worship leader for a time. Lois, Ruby, Janet, Barbara and myself all add to each of our church choirs and praise teams.
I consider it a gift from the Father - this musical heritage. In life, we face all kinds of trials and sometimes even tragedies. Speaking for myself, there have been many situations when I have been unable to even utter a word of prayer to God. When those times occur, I am so thankful for beautiful, uplifting worship songs that I have learned through the years. Somehow the songs will come when spoken words won't and often times I have found so much peace just by singing a chorus or two. We all have used the phrase or idiom (a new word I just learned :) "music to my ears" probably many times in our lives. Well, I got a little curious and decided to see what Google had to say about it. Here are some definitions that I found:
a welcome sound
very pleasing information to hear
a favorable outcome after some initial confusion or delay
I think these are all examples of how our Lord feels when we come to him, whether in spoken prayer or lifting our voices in song. Whether it is in a time of sadness, desperation, uncertainty or when we just want to worship and praise Him for who He is... this is music to His ears!