Monday, February 9, 2015

How did this get stuck in my head?

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God's heaven, a star's light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God's Angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

Once again I am suffering from caffeinated insomnia. This is an illness of my own doing and a real problem because of my coffee addiction. I really should know better than to go after the Cafe Francais at 8 PM - Not a good least at that time of day...

While doing my usual late night early AM perusal of the ever popular FB I started thinking of this old hymn.  I used to know all of them....given the religious upbringing and the baptist college it is no wonder I have a litany of the traditional older hymns buried in my brain that eek out every once in a while. 

Did you know the history of this hymn? It was written in 1933-34. So technically not that old. but still pretty interesting story. I am going to use the Wikipedia version here:
 is a Christian folk hymn, typically performed as a Christmas carol, written by American folklorist and singer John Jacob Niles (The Dean of American Balladeers). The hymn has its origins in a song fragment collected by Niles on July 16, 1933.
While in the town of Murphy in Appalachian North Carolina, Niles attended a fundraising meeting held by evangelicals who had been ordered out of town by the police.In his unpublished autobiography, he wrote of hearing the song:
A girl had stepped out to the edge of the little platform attached to the automobile. She began to sing. Her clothes were unbelievable dirty and ragged, and she, too, was unwashed. Her ash-blond hair hung down in long skeins.... But, best of all, she was beautiful, and in her untutored way, she could sing. She smiled as she sang, smiled rather sadly, and sang only a single line of a song.
The girl, named Annie Morgan, repeated the fragment seven times in exchange for a quarter per performance, and Niles left with "three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material—and a magnificent idea".(In various accounts of this story, Niles hears between one and three lines of the song.) Based on this fragment, Niles composed the version of "I Wonder as I Wander" that is known today, extending the melody to four lines and the lyrics to three stanzas. His composition was completed on October 4, 1933.Niles first performed the song on December 19, 1933 at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. It was originally published in Songs of the Hill Folk in 1934.
Niles's "folk composition" process caused confusion among singers and listeners, many of whom believed this song to be anonymous in origin. Niles undertook lawsuits to establish its authorship and demanded royalties of other performers of the song.
On John-Jacob's website there is this tidbit as well:
"I Wonder As I Wander' grew out of three lines of music sung for me by a girl who called herself Annie Morgan. The place was Murphy, North Carolina, and the time was July, 1933. The Morgan family, revivalists all, were about to be ejected by the police, after having camped in the town square for some little time, cooking, washing, hanging their wash from the Confederate monument and generally conducting themselves in such a way as to be classed a public nuisance. Preacher Morgan and his wife pled poverty; they had to hold one more meeting in order to buy enough gas to get out of town. It was then that Annie Morgan came out--a tousled, unwashed blond, and very lovely. She sang the first three lines of the verse of 'I Wonder As I Wander'. At twenty-five cents a performance, I tried to get her to sing all the song. After eight tries, all of which are carefully recorded in my notes, I had only three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material--and a magnificent idea. With the writing of additional verses and the development of the original melodic material, 'I Wonder As I Wander' came into being. I sang it for five years in my concerts before it caught on. Since then, it has been sung by soloists and choral groups wherever the English language is spoken and sung."
--John Jacob Niles

It is interesting that an evangelist had some part of this hymn but not terribly surprising. How many songs and hymns have come from obscure, unusual or weird origins? Greensleeves was supposedly written by King Henry VIII - however the style of the song would have only gotten to England long after his passing and was most likely around during his daughter's reign. There are several different editions of this song roaming around- the tune was also used in "What Child is this." 
I guess I am kind of in a quandary about any number of things (so distracting myself by messing with the history of songs is a way to get away from stress??). Trying to explain to the boy that if he decides to get a house someday he will have to do yard work, and his own laundry and keep things neat....oh and pay his mortgage and taxes and other bills. Then to explain why having a pet is so expensive and keeping the pet healthy is one way to keep costs low. He gets it but it kind of worried me that he thought a mortgage was paid 1x a year instead of monthly- somehow he got the idea that the mortgage on a house was like taxes....I had to burst his bubble on that one. He is attempting to plan ahead- "I don't think I will need a car because I can walk to work, the grocery store and other places." What about the doctors? Your therapists? If you have a meeting somewhere, are you going to hire a taxi and then try to figure out how to get home? 
Hey- at least he is thinking.....better to think now than fail and not think at all.
Right now we are in a binge mode...getting rid of things to not replace what we have but to downsize - which is crazy since we aren't at the geezer stage but there is a lot of clutter around here. Teaching the boy what to keep, get rid of and "Do you really want that? Why? and is it useful?" Recently he decided to sell some of his PC games. Mostly because I won't let him clog up the computer - and the really good one won't work on the computer any longer - "Trailer Park Tycoon" Seriously great game- trailer park taken over by aliens....OK it's lame but it was fun. The other family fav was "Zoo Tycoon" - my zoos were HUGE- and had unicorns....there could be dinosaurs, and a total mayhem if they started eating each other.....T-Rex and stegosaurus do not live well together (who knew?)
Anyway, we are trying to diverge ourselves of things we aren't using....or haven't used in a large number of years. Some of it is silly stuff, we bought some things when we were getting together with a group that more or less disbanded - so who needs a carafe the size of a barn or champagne flutes in vase? Not useful -at least for us - but VERY COOL looking. Ergo we are subsequently teaching about what we need and what we don't. The above hymn came to mind (haven't heard it in years) and the need to get rid of excess seems like a good idea before we become serious hoarders. 
Maybe the itinerant preacher and the singing daughter had the right idea....I don't know but I do know that we are going to try to not clutter ourselves up as much as we have been. It is too much work to keep track of the stuff - OH and NO we aren't ditching the family heirlooms so no land grab requests are necessary. 

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