That was Mom's main rule about singing--we were expected to sing loud. If you've ever heard any of us Burke kids sing, you know that we took that rule to heart.
I remember at one church, a man told me I'd done a really good job singing so nice and loud. He then gave me a handful of quarters. I was rich!
James was clearly the most talented singer in the family, but with him going off to college during our first furlough, Jody and I became the designated singers. Steph, the piano player, was put in charge of us--a position she both loved and hated, I think.
We would spend what seemed like hours around the piano while she taught us new songs and worked on parts with us. Steph is truly a genius at teaching music to kids because somehow we learned songs and even different parts while we were doing our absolute best to drive her crazy--singing off key on purpose was one of Jody's favorite things to do.
Once Steph's job was done, we were sent to perform for Mom who almost always said, "Very good. Keep practicing. Sing louder."
Every time we were on furlough, we would sing in countless churches, big and small. Some of them had as few as ten people, others told us exactly where to stand to be in the right place for the camera to get us so we could be on TV. Sometimes we sang once, sometimes we sang every night of a missions conference, and sometimes, not very often, but sometimes we didn't sing at all.
As we got older, we were still required to practice with Steph and learn new songs, but our practice sessions started driving Mom crazy. We spent more time laughing than singing. Sometimes a random note would strike us as funny, and we wouldn't be able to get past it without cracking up. And it was really bad when we would be singing in church, get to that note, and see Mom in the congregation laughing while we had to hold it together and keep singing.
When Steph left for college, Jody took over as piano player. He also started writing all the songs we sang. I totally didn't appreciate the genius in our house when he was pounding the same thing on the piano over and over again while I was trying to watch TV.
We loved music by then, though, and when Steph came back home for a few years after college, we actually started practicing without being told to. We "formed a band" named Third Culture, and Jody wrote some awesome songs for us. Unfortunately a cool name and cool songs was about as far as we got.
I know when I was a kid, I hated it when Mom would make us practice singing. But now I appreciate it. She really helped instill a love of making music in all of us. Even now, every time we siblings get together, we have to sing.
And when we sing, we sing as loud as we can.
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