Singing families chose ballad as their theme song

Published 9:34 am Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dark Corner families that had two or more members, who  blended in close harmony when singing old ballads and spiritual ballads/hymns, invariably chose a particular one to be their identifying sound.

While the chosen ballad was universally familiar to listeners, a family’s particular blend of close harmonies quickly identified them, just as easily as modern-day theme songs identify TV shows.

From the very first time that I—at age 12—discovered an ability to naturally harmonize tenor with my mother’s soprano and sister’s alto while singing “Birmingham Jail,” our family’s “sound” was set.

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What made our “sound” different than most other singing families was the fact that my younger male voice allowed me to sing “high tenor,” while my sister’s more mature voice did a distinctive “low alto.”

This untraditional blend seemed especially suited for the Rev. W.B. Stevens’ spiritual ballad/hymn, “Farther Along,” first published in 1937. It became our theme song in the years that followed, until my graduation from Furman University in 1955, at age 20.

With a commission in the U.S. Navy, I left the Dark Corner for almost a full 20 years, returning in 1974. We picked up again with our family “sound,” but mother had some difficulty with leading, because of her reduced lung capacity.