In the course of writing a review of my new novel, Celia Whitfield’s Boy, Ben Steelman of the Wilmington Star News mentioned that I have “worn many hats in a long and varied career.” I was sitting at lunch with a friend of mine who was reading that article and she asked me “What was the most memorable event in your long and varied career?”
I told her I’d have get back to her on that because there have been so many memorable events in my life that I would really have to think hard to come up with one “ most memorable” I assumed the question had to do with my professional career rather than personal. Certainly, the birth of my children and sharing in their lives would have to rank right at the top of everything.
But if I shift down to my professional life, picking the most memorable event is really tough. There are so many small events that led to much bigger ones that it’s hard to attach the proper level of impact. I have been fortunate to have been a part of so many celebrations and festivals, met and interviewed all kinds of people (famous, infamous, and practically unknown). I have sung for all kinds of audiences: large, small, and “imaginary”. ( The imaginary audience is a story for another day.)
So after much consideration I concluded that there were two equally memorable occasions. Both had to do with singing before a large audience of people from around the world.
I don’t remember the exact date but it was sometime in the late 1970s, I believe, when I was asked to sing for the Ladies Luncheon for the Optimist International Convention Center in Charlotte. I don’t remember how many ladies were there but the hall was full so there were over a thousand. Susan Griffin, (now Susan Griffin Fisher), a former Miss North Carolina and a friend of mine was also singing for the occasion.
I believe I sang a couple of songs then Susan sang some before we closed the show with a duet performance of “The American Trilogy”. For those of you who may not be familiar with that song, it’s a medley of “Dixie”, “Hush, Little Baby”, “and the Battle Hymn of the Republic”. I started with “I wish I was in the land of cotton”… and I saw a few ladies rise from their chairs and stand at attention. Then Susan began singing “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah” and the rest of the audience began to stand and as we sang the reprise together the audience sang with us. That whole convention center was filled with “His truth is marching on, His truth is marching on!” A thousand women’s voices and one very fortunate man proclaiming unity and patriotism in downtown Charlotte.
Yes, that was one of the most memorable events in my life.