BACK AT MONROE
The appreciation I have
towards organ and vocal music can be attributed to four Monroe citizens who were
long recognized for their musical abilities years before the advent of the
Monroe Art Guild or the musical concerts that have recently come into vogue.
These four people, two from
Monroe First Baptist Church, and two from Monroe First Methodist Church, were
recognized as true talents in the music field, and how unique it was that these
churches were two blocks away from each other.
The Baptist Church duo was
Mrs. Harry M. (Sarah) Arnold, choir member and soprano soloist along with Mrs.
Mason (Kate) Williams, who served as organist. As Mrs. Arnold‘s voice bloomed
in the sanctuary of the church, she was usually accompanied by Mrs. Williams at
the organ. Together these two ladies gave freely and generously of their
talents, both serving in their duties for 40 years. They both were always ready
and available for weddings, funerals and other social gatherings.
Mrs. Williams had the distinct privilege of playing the only pipe organ
in the city at the time. Another unique thing about this partnership was that
the two musicians lived across the street from one another.
A short distance away, at
Monroe First Methodist was another musical team, this time a family linked pair,
who gave the same generous time of their talents in like fashion.
Mrs. Paul N. (Miss Jennie) Launius, came to Monroe to teach music in the
local schools. It was shortly after
arriving here that she met her future husband. After
their marriage, she took over the role of organist and choir director of the
church. Her brother-in-law, Dennie
B. Launius, was already a stalwart member of the church, serving as longtime
choir member and tenor soloist. Having
grown up in the Methodist Church, I had a greater opportunity to hear and
appreciate the talents of Miss Jennie and Dennie Launius, but various
opportunities were afforded me to enjoy the same wonderful talents provided at
the Baptist Church by Mrs. Arnold and Mrs. Williams.
In 1970 I attended an organ
concert in Atlanta by the famed virtuoso Virgil Fox, who was organist for the
renowned Riverside Church in New York City.
Accompanying Virgil for this recital was his good friend and featured
soprano soloist at the Riverside, Hazel Gravell.
During his concert, Virgil had invited Hazel to sing two songs in which
he accompanied her on the organ. When
I heard Hazel sing, I thought to myself, “This is incredible.
She sings just like Sarah Arnold did in Monroe.”
That was an evening I will always remember.
For years it was a general
consensus that not many people in Monroe were married or buried without the
musical offerings of either one or a combination of these four individuals.
I know that there are still many left in Monroe who can attest to the
beautiful music that was created by these musical duos.
From a personal perspective, Miss Jennie played at funeral services for
many of my family members accompanying Mr. Dennie as he sang hymns with his
beautiful voice, much of the time with no sheet music in sight.
A unique thing about Mr. Dennie was that in normal conversation with him,
he had a slight stutter. But when he
opened his mouth in song, all evidence of the stutter was gone.
The last family funeral Miss Jennie played for was my father, who died in
1970. At the conclusion of the
service, one of my father’s business associates from Social Circle came up to
me and said, “If the music in Heaven is as sweet as what Mrs. Launius played
today, I am certainly looking forward to going there.”
Those comments were a great comfort to me on that sad day.
I felt my father’s presence somewhere, close by, listening.
I know he was happy with such a wonderful musical sendoff.