When I was in the fifth grade a special teacher “Mr. Wren” came to our school for a brief time. He was a music teacher. He gave piano lessons and had a class in choral singing that included some music basics like how to read some of the notes. Almost nobody paid much attention to that part. I was always curious about how someone could look at notes printed on a piece of paper and decipher a tune or melody. I still do not understand how they do that. Mr. Wren left suddenly before school was out. I didn’t know why, I didn’t take piano lessons.
I did enjoy the choral singing. Mr. Wren taught us more sophisticated songs than “Farmer in the Dale” and “London Bridge” but gave up on sophisticated songs like “Santa Lucia” or “O Sole Mio” although he did try; he settled for “Row, Row, your Boat” as our main song. For this rendition he separated the class into two groups and directed the second group to start singing the first line when the first group started the second line. It was fun singing that way especially after some of the high school boys changed the words to:
Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Throw your teacher overboard
And listen to him scream …
After which Mr. Wren changed our main song to “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” I didn’t know anyone named Bonnie, but I liked the song, sometimes after class it would run over and over through my mind and I would find myself humming it.
My daddy used to read to us on those winter evenings. That day we were standing around the pot-bellied stove waiting for Daddy to continue reading Robinson Crusoe. We were anxious to hear more about Friday who had just joined Crusoe at the last reading session. As we were warming and waiting my sister sang a little nursery rhyme tune, to fill the lull, I burst out with my rendition of “My Bonnie …” which had been running over and over in my mind. Perhaps it surprised everyone, they were all looking at me; then Daddy said “Lord son, you couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.”
Daddy could sing, play a guitar, play a harmonica, and as far as I know he never lied to me. I gave up singing that day. Some say he shouldn’t have said that; perhaps that’s true but it don’t change the fact that I can’t carry a tune and should only perform musicals in my mind for my own amusement and nobody’s endurance. –CP