Alex has always loved listening to music, and music has consistently had a soothing effect upon him. When he was very small, he enjoyed watching and listening to the Disney Sing-Along videos. While I suspect that he delighted in seeing the lyrics as they went across the screen, he also found the Disney tunes catchy. As a toddler, he often requested for my mom to sing “This Old Man” to him. That song has special appeal for him because of the sequence of numbers in the lyrics (“This old man, he played five, he played knick-knack on my hive...”). His all-time most beloved song, however, is “Happy Birthday.” Considering he associates that song with cake and presents, it’s not surprising he likes it so much. Actually, he appreciates a variety of types of music with one exception—rap. Clearly, he has discriminating taste, or else he has been influenced by Ed and me, who also don’t care for rap music.
One of Alex’s preferred styles of music is instrumental jazz, which is also one of Ed’s favorites. The lack of lyrics probably allows Alex to concentrate on the music without the distraction of words. The two of them share an appreciation for Miles Davis, John Coltrane and other jazz greats, and they like to listen to Ed’s collection of jazz CD’s together. Last spring, we took him to a jazz concert at Valparaiso University, and Alex was in his element, swaying to the music, clapping, and smiling from ear to ear. Additionally, Alex really likes country music, and he especially enjoys watching country music videos on television with us. His most admired country singers are Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, and Gretchen Wilson. If he hears any of their videos come on TV, especially “When the Sun Goes Down,” “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere,” or “Redneck Woman,” he drops what he’s doing to watch the music video.
Another type of music that Alex is especially fond of is gospel, which he likes to listen to with me. He prefers gospel groups who sing four-part harmony, such as Ernie Haase and Signature Sound or the Statler Brothers, and he finds the deep voices of their bass singers especially pleasing. A few months ago, we took him to a gospel concert at the university, and he loved the harmonies. As he did at the jazz concert, he swayed and clapped to the rhythm, smiled, and applauded with appreciation for the music he enjoyed so much. An added bonus for him was the live performance by his all-time favorite American Idol winner, Ruben Studdard. This special experience was one he proclaimed that he liked “one hundred percent” because it was “special.” Alan Jackson’s Precious Memories, a collection of traditional hymns, ranks as Alex’s best-loved CD. We keep this CD in my car and play it every time he rides with me. In addition, I have the songbook that accompanies the CD and play these familiar hymns on the piano. One evening while I was playing, I suddenly heard his soft voice behind me singing, “How great Thou art, how great Thou art…," which brought tears to my eyes because he rarely sings. His favorite song on the CD, though, is “In the Garden, “which was also my grandmother’s favorite hymn. When he jumps in the car, fast forwards to play number six, and the strains of “I come to the garden alone…” come over the speakers, a contented smile spreads across his face. I imagine that his great-grandmother smiles in heaven as she watches her great-grandson very pleased by the song she also loved so well.
“Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices and instruments and making melody with all your heart to the Lord.” Ephesians 5: 19