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Let Me Call You Sweetheart

As we exited the sanctuary after my mother’s funeral the pianist played Let Me Call You Sweetheart. In 2006 I spent many hours interviewing my mother about her childhood and one of the things she told me was………

 “When I was a child we traveled with a horse and sleigh in winter. But in summer my Dad got out his Ford touring vehicle which he kept up on blocks in the garage during the snowy months. Our Ford had curtains you snapped on instead of windows. 

My grandparents' car standing outside their farmhouse in Drake, Saskatchewan

My grandparents’ car standing outside their farmhouse in Drake, Saskatchewan

My Dad always wanted our family to sing when we traveled anywhere together in the car.  I remember him singing lots of Negro spirituals and other songs like Way Down Upon the Swannee River,  Down By the Old Mill Stream and Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

Mom also told me that she and her siblings were big Bing Crosby fans and they had quite a number of his 78 records.  Her Dad liked Bing Crosby too and since he was an excellent whistler he often whistled Bing Crosby tunes. In 1934, when my mother was nine years old Bing released a recording of Let Me Call You Sweetheart that became a big hit for him. 

mother and daughters at the pianoWhen I was a child my mother routinely spent an hour or more on Sunday afternoons at the piano playing all kinds of music that had been popular in her childhood and teen years. Let Me Call You Sweetheart was one of her standards.

marylou and dorothyTwo months before my Mom died I went along with my grandson to his Kindermusik class and one of the songs the children sang and danced to was Let Me Call You Sweetheart.  I told Mom about it when I got home and even though at that point in time it was sometimes difficult for her to remember things she sang the whole chorus to me word for word. 

My Mom playing the piano with her granddaughter

My Mom playing the piano with her granddaughter

I included Let Me Call You Sweetheart in the list of suggested music I gave to Roxanne Klassen the accomplished pianist and organist who served at Mom’s funeral and it was her idea that she could play it as we left the church. I could almost hear my Mom singing along.

My Mom conducts her friends in college

My Mom conducts her friends in college

I’ve been writing a series of posts about the music at my mother’s funeral. Music was such an important part of our mother’s life and we wanted that reflected at her funeral. Writing these posts is a way to help me remember and reflect on that music because the day of the funeral I was too emotional to really do so. Here are a list of the other posts I’ve done so far………

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Music Across the Generations

I had a chance to visit a Kindermusik class last week.   Kindermusik is a program that introduces young children to music and movement. It’s been around for forty years and operates in seventy countries.  

The class was fun! The children were all under two years old and they crawled around exploring the space and we sang together, danced together and played games. 

At one point the teacher put on a recording of a song I knew well. I had heard my mother playing it on the piano and singing it when I was a child. My Mom has a wonderful musical ear and on Sunday afternoons when we were growing up she routinely indulged in an hour or so at the piano playing from memory a medley of favorite tunes from her youth. Let Me Call You Sweetheart was a song Mom often played and sang along to. When the Kindermusik teacher put it on to accompany our dancing I recognized it right away and sang along softly.

I wondered why the teacher had chosen such an old song for such young children and she explained.  The Kindermusik organization has Let Me Call You Sweetheart in their song repertoire because in some cities they hold a series of classes in senior citizens’ homes. The residents participate with the children. It is stimulating for the seniors and they love having the children there. The success of this program has led to a similar one where Kindermusik classes are held on Alzheimer hospital wards. Old songs like Let Me Call You Sweetheart are played because while people suffering from dementia forget many things, their musical memory is often intact and they can recall songs from their youth and will sing and move along to the music with the visiting toddlers.

That got me thinking about how little opportunity people from the very oldest and very youngest generations have to interact in our present day. This used to happen in homes and neighborhoods since elderly people lived with their families. Now seniors live in nursing homes and seniors’ apartment complexes. Intergenerational interaction used to happen at churches. But now many young families don’t attend church and seniors often listen or watch worship services telecast into their care homes.

In 2013 we probably need to be more deliberate about initiatives like the one Kindermusik is trying, that provide an opportunity for the very oldest and very youngest generations to interact and enrich one another’s lives.

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Filed under Childhood, Music, Retirement