Prison Diary: Harmony

As regular readers know, every Monday night I lead an old-fashioned hymn sing out at the prison. I've also mentioned our singing in The Slavery of Death and Reviving Old Scratch.

At the middle of the study I have the men pull old songbooks off the shelves, they start calling out numbers, and we sing. Often for 30 or 40 minutes. We have our favorites, but I also try to teach them new songs. Recently I introduced them to "I'm Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger," and they love it.

But here's the newest development.


For years, we've never had much harmony in the songs. We all, fifty men, just sang the melody. But about a year ago "I Come to the Garden Alone" began to be regularly requested. And for some reason, then men started harmonizing with that song.
And he walks with me, and he talks with me,
and he tells me I am his own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
none other, has ever, known.
They had found the notes that made us sound like a barbershop quartet, especially on "as we tarry there." And over time, the harmonizing on this song has helped the men develop an ear for harmony. More and more, they've been taking risks and experimenting with harmonies on the songs we sing. And this Monday I was blown away at good we were sounding.

I'm such a broken record about how much I love singing out at the prison. It's the spiritual highlight of my week.

And now, harmonies!

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