Harmony. Pitch

Published March 16, 2023

By Lib Campbell

In my family the song “Daddy sang base, Mama sang tenor” was not far from the truth. Only in my family Daddy sang bass, mama played the piano. My brother sang tenor, sister sang soprano, and I sang alto. Mother would volunteer our singing at Rotary Club Banquets or American Legion parties. We were a micro Von Trapp Family back in the day.
In my family, whatever was played on the piano or on the radio, we could find our part…. harmonize… and sing along. Harmony is such joy. And many nights my family would sing around a piano or a guitar. We would take a stick of bamboo or lament the cruel war and harmonize in thanksgiving that we could find the right pitch and make beautiful music together. 
I remember when Gospel Jubilee was on Sunday morning TV as were getting our children ready for church. The Happy Goodman Family and others sang in such harmony the day was set right. And when Prairie Home Companion was on public radio, we would sit around the fire pit listening and find a note to sing along. To be part of the song, the music, is such joy. Have we forgotten how to find our note? Have we become suddenly tone deaf?
The discord in the world today might mean we have not found our pitch, our note that harmonizes with other people and all creation. So how do we find it? We live in a world in which we need to be on pitch. So much is at stake for our democracy, for our planet. This is no time to be flat, sharp or discordant.
Tom’s dad was in the North Carolina Legislature for several terms. There was a love feast at the end of the session. On the floor of the Chamber, he played the piano, and the legislators sang. At the end of all the arguing and haggling, they found their pitch and there was harmony in the group. Where is the music playing now? How can we find the harmony that keeps us singing?
Finding pitch is hard for some people. From my experience, matching pitch is the first step. Searching and mimicking the right note takes as much listening as it does singing. For anyone who has ever tuned a guitar, turning the keys to match the tuning fork requires careful listening. For those who can’t tune by ear an auxiliary electric oscilloscope can tell you when the pitch is right. Sometimes the visual cue is better than relying on the ear. 
What are the lessons in finding pitch? How do we get to harmony? First, is to turn down the volume and noise of discord. Listening to loud, hateful, harmful sounds never leads to harmony. Second, tune your ear to beauty and goodness so that your heart sings the song with joy. Third, if you need auxiliary help, like a visual cue, just look around at the faces of angry mobs. From faces of anguish to anger, we see how out of tune we are. Perhaps a look in the mirror would reflect the tone you are setting in your own life. 
In 1971, the Coca Cola Bottling Company released a jingle titled, I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing in Perfect Harmony. The verses speak to building a world furnished with love. Apple trees and honeybees and snow-white turtle doves. “I’d like to see the world for once all standing hand in hand and hear them echo through the hills for peace throughout the land.” 
Such harmony seems always a measure or two away. Yet, it continues to be the hope that pulls us through all the dissonance and discord to the rests and breaths of the day. It is good every now and then to get lost in the song of freedom and peace. Perhaps one day we can be pitch perfect and the symphony that is America will not remain unfinished.
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite www.avirtualchurch.com. She can be contacted at libcam05@gmail.com