08 June 2009

Memories of Walter

I've been waxing nostalgic lately. Maybe it's because of my upcoming birthday (and the flurry of familial birthdays that surround it). Perhaps it is due to the way my mind does circles and loops all the time, bringing images from my past to the front of my mind causing me to pause, sigh, and then let it cycle again to the region of the back of my mind from whence it came. Mayhaps it is what countless other people do at the same rate as I. At any rate, I apologise in advance for the haphazard quality of this particular blog.

Whatever the reason, one of those flashback memories came to me Sunday. While living in Lincoln County, I attended a church where I really started forming my spiritual and musical roots. I started going there in my later teen years in high school all the way through my senior year in college (or thereabouts). A sequence of wildly various events has led me to not be able to go back there again, but I still have fond memories of days gone by.

At this church I got my first taste of singing in a group. I can't remember exactly how it happened, but at some point I started learning to sing bass in the choir or the congregation or something. My friend Jeff (a piano player and natural baritone singer) helped train me while we were singing near each other. At the same time I was singing along with the bass singers on CDs (or maybe tapes back then) of Gold City, the Cathedrals, and Peace of Mind, among others. So, somewhere in there I started forming my ear for hearing bass.

Someway or another I was convinced to start singing in front of the congregation with three older guys: Norris Keeling (lead and, incidentally, the church choir leader), Walter Dunlap (tenor), and Rick Dunlap (baritone). The back story I am not entirely clear on, but they went by the "Canaan Land Quartet" years back. They had a bass singer as well back then named Winford Curry (previously a pastor at the church and also a great evangelist). With Winford pastoring elsewhere, the guys sang trio at church from time to time. Somewhere in there I had the chance to sing bass with them.

The few times singing at church led to us singing at other churches for a short while. But, at the time I was starting college and didn't really have much time to go with them very often, though it would have been great. Summarily, we went back to just singing less and less frequently until Norris passed away (just a few years ago).

This flood of memories has been brought back again because of the passing of another of those men who helped shape me into who I am as a singer and as a Christian. Over this past weekend, Walter graduated to Heaven. Now I find myself thinking fondly back to those times, wishing there was someway to do it again for at least one more song, knowing that there is one more everlasting day coming where we can sing forever more in the presence of Almighty God.

I close in prayer for all the people close to Walter Dunlap (and there were so many). I also close with the chorus of the song that has been running through my head (in his voice) ever since I first read of Walter's passing. This is the song I first heard him sing, and he sang it many, many times before and after that time. Now he is with the One who wrote his name in the Lamb's Book of Life.

He Wrote My Name
(O.S. Davis (c) Thompson Music/BMI)

"He wrote my name way up in glory.
He saved my soul from sin and shame.
I never shall forget the day
When my Savior wrote my name."

No comments: