My sister Mimi and I used to belt out a two-part harmony tune on our way to work in downtown Richmond, VA a few decades back. “Strolling aLONnng… singing a sonnng… side by side.” Nobody threw shoes at us, although some may have considered it. We actually kept the volume down. But the world at any decibel level was our oyster and the sidewalks of a dozen or so blocks between our apartment and jobs – at the Richmond Times-Dispatch and radio station WRNL – our kingdom . That little pop song and a few other seize-the-day tunes got us through dark mornings and small hangovers for an exuberant season or two – and to work on time. I think it was less about the words and music, though, than the two-part harmony and the sheer joy of singing.
Harmony, particularly among women, might be the secret to world peace. Threshold Choirs (three- and four-parts and more) bring peace and comfort to the bedsides of dying folks, a movement that started not long ago with a group of 15 women and has expanded into many states and several countries. Founder Kate Munger dates her inspiration for Threshold Choir to the time, gathered around a Girl Scout campfire, when “we were all singing and everything about the world was wonderful, connected and sweet.” This may not be globally possible any time soon. But the metaphorical image of everyone hunkered around a giant campfire to sing away our problems surely warms the heart, at least for most of us girls. My friend Susan McMane recently returned from Washington with the elite Chorissima group of the San Francisco Girls Chorus , where they helped sing the new president into office; maybe that campfire spirit will catch on.
And back to the strolling-along spirit – “Side by Side” continues thus: “We don’t know what’s coming tomorrow, maybe it’s trouble and sorrow, but we’ll travel the road, sharing our load, side by side.”
Mimi departed this world recently, leaving me seriously bereft but with the two-part harmony permanently in my head. The world is welcome to join in.