Thanks Mom

July 22, 2008

JoAnn Rhodes Bourland, photographed by her son [me], Roger Bourland III

At age 55 I am fortunate to have both of my parents alive and well. Yesterday I blogged about my dad, and today, my mom.

JoAnn Rhodes Bourland was born in Flemingsburg, Kentucky, the only daughter of Marian and Nancy Rhodes. (Flemingsburg is just down the road from Maysville, y’know, the town where the Clooneys are from?) My parents have been married for 57 years and they are still madly in love.

Before I was born my mother played the piano. She knew some classical music supposedly (I never heard her play it), and won a competition, but my memory of her piano playing was always her playing hymns.

JoAnn’s mother’s sisters all played the organ — “by ear” my Grandmother would emphasize. My father’s father played piano for silent films (Slim Bourland and the Jazz Hounds) also “by ear.” As I came to reading music late, my piano sight reading skills have never been terrific, but my ear is fabulous, and I thank my mother and her aunts, and my father and his father for whatever genetic and cultural boost they gave me.

JoAnn cries easily — crying from being moved or touched by my dad’s sermon, or saying goodbye, or a beautiful moment. I have a similar tendency, and cherish moments where music brings one to tears. I choke up easily when speaking about things that move me, and hearing music that moves me. i know my siblings inherited the same sensitivity.

When my family visited my mother’s parents in Kentucky, when we went to church Granddaddy would sing tenor, Grandmother would sing soprano (the old lady wobble had already set it, but no matter), and Mother would sing alto. I was too you young to sing the bass, but I loved hearing that good ol’ southern harmony. As a composer I went through an Americana period where I studied with Randall Thompson and tapped into those Christian roots.

As my dad pointed out this weekend, one can tap into one’s roots, or grow entirely new ones.

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