Photography by Curtis Beaird
Article by Norma W. Beaird
Having been raised in a Pentecostal church where choirs, solos, trios and musical instruments were a very important part of worship, I have always loved music. Hymns, Southern Gospel, Country Gospel, Black Gospel and Bluegrass Gospel have always been a part of my life.
As a matter of fact, my mother was a church pianist for fifty-two years and served as church organist for six years. She played for the most of the revivals, weddings and funerals, and she is currently playing piano for a small Baptist Church. For quite a few years, I sang alto in the choir. Plus, we attended many Southern Gospel concerts and (as the Southerners call it), attended many "sings" at other churches. Being around music all of my life also included seven years of piano lessons and music theory.
In the mid-nineties, I had a group travel business that included planning trips and escorting church groups to the famous Bill Gaither Homecoming Concerts. Being around such a rich musical heritage, I learned very early that positive music can bring a sense of peace when it seems the world is crashing down around you. As a matter of fact, music is very important to God:
King James Version
1 Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary:
praise him in the firmament of his power.
2 Praise him for his mighty acts:
praise him according to his excellent greatness.
3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet:
praise Him with the psaltery and harp.
4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance:
praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals:
praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.
The Lord is praised through our worship as we read the Bible, pray, preach, teach, help others and sing or play musical instruments. According to Psalm 150, music is beautiful to God. People who praise the Lord through encouraging music help to brighten a person's day or give them a sense of relief from the stresses of everyday life.
One particular genre of music that I have really enjoyed more and more through the years is Bluegrass Gospel and Bluegrass music in general. According to the International Bluegrass Music Museum, Bluegrass is truly an American phenomenon, a music that rose to prominence deep in the hills of the Carolinas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. This music resonated with the folks who lived in the rural areas, in the mountains and on the farms in the Eastern United States.
Rural life was hard for the settlers and for the many folks who settled on the farms. Bluegrass music gave them a way to express themselves emotionally and spiritually. Sometimes it's easier to sing about it than to talk about it. Consequently, sometimes it's easier to listen to a good song than it is to worry about the troubles of this life. I have learned many lessons in life, but one I have learned for certain is that prayer and uplifting music can help to calm the emotional stormy seas and remind us that we need to get down on our knees and pray.
Most of today's modern Country, Pop and Gospel music has been hijacked by the over-orchestrated engineering in a big city studio. Acoustic performances have been replaced by muffled soundtracks; or, as my grandmother called it, "canned music". For me personally, I much prefer the pure sound of an acoustic guitar, bass fiddle, mandolin or banjo. Instrumentals without auto-tuned voices preserve artistic integrity; therefore, they take precedence over heavily orchestrated soundtracks.
Thus, Bluegrass Music has a calming effect. Unlike most modern music today, it does not assault your ears with loud, pounding noise. That's because it purely echoes both vocally, lyrically and instrumentally the struggles and questions of life in a poetic, but straight-forward manner. Especially today in this modern culture of noise and distractions, my absolute favorite music is Bluegrass. Pure, simple, real and folksy, it speaks to old and young, rich and poor, happy and sad. You can't say that about most music today, but you can acknowledge the broad reach of this culturally rich American tradition called Bluegrass.
When I graduated from high school, my grandparents asked me what I wanted as a graduation gift. I told them that I wanted a banjo. "A banjo?" "Yes, I want a banjo!" For quite a while, I took music lessons from two different talented musicians. The last instructor who taught me banjo lessons ended up in Nashville as a studio musician.
My lessons stopped and I don't play anymore, but I still have that beautiful stringed instrument that reminds me of my early fondness for the sounds of simpler times, especially when I hear the first few chords of Foggy Mountain Breakdown or the pure vocal sounds of Patty Loveless and Ricky Skaggs in Daniel Prayed.
Therefore, I present to you just one of my favorite Bluegrass groups, The Gospel Bluegrass Project:
Copyright 2013, Norma W. Beaird. All rights reserved.