Earlier this month, the annual Pauline Creel Birthday singing was held in Wayne , Michigan (in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area). “Miss Pauline” comes from one of the “singing families” in the Sacred Harp tradition–that is, one of the extended families in the South that kept (and continue to keep) Sacred Harp music alive. Many of her family come up north for her birthday singing–I think I heard that some 30 people came for her 91st birthday. It was a joy to sing with them.
I was especially struck by Teddy Creel, who led “Lover of the Lord” (mp3), with its strongly Christian, non-PC lyrics:
Lovers of pleasure more than God,
For you He suffered pain;
For you the Savior spilt His blood,
And shall He bleed in vain?
Oh, you must be a lover of the Lord,
Or you can’t go to heaven when you die.
He led it with such sincerity and honesty that I wanted to thank him afterwards. Although I am glad that Sacred Harp music attracts all kinds of people from many faith (and non-faith) traditions, I feel a special kind of kinship with people who take the words at face value. I haven’t done the research, but I suspect this tune is led more often, proportionally, in the South than in the “diaspora.” Anyway, I attempted several times to approach him, but he was naturally spending time catching up with fellow family members and other long-time singers, and the opportunity never arose.
Teddy Creel died on Monday, just six days shy of his 50th birthday. As a sincere and deep Lover of the Lord, he is, I am confident, ready to enjoy the pleasures of the heavenly vision, shouting and singing with the elders:
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created (Revelation 4:11, KJV).