Glory, Glory, Hallelujah

27 julia howeLinda Burton posting from Jefferson City, Missouri – “…as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind….I said to myself, ‘I must…write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.’ So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and…scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper.” These are the words of Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), a prominent American abolitionist, social activist, and poet, describing the November morning she wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The year was 1861 and the poem was published in The Atlantic Monthly in February of the next year. Julia’s lyrics were intended to link the “judgment of the wicked at the end of time” with the American Civil War; since then it has become one of the most familiar and well-loved American patriotic songs. On this Memorial Day in Middle America, it was performed for likely the million-umpteenth time as the swelling finale for the Jefferson City Community Symphonic Band concert at the First Christian Church. Glory, glory, hallelujah; soaring up to the rafters, what a fitting end to a beautiful concert. 27 church insideThe band was really good, a collection of non-professional musicians from the area; since Paul Hinman and Steve Eubanks organized them back in 2010 they’ve put on several concerts a year. Today’s was, fittingly, a tribute to all our military forces, past, present, and future; with a variety of patriotic songs, from Civil War medleys to Star Wars, but The Battle Hymn was the icing on the cake. Glory, glory, hallelujah rang in my head as I made my way to the door of the church, and then turned back. Outside, lightning, thunder, and bucket-rain were putting on another show.

27 rain windshieldThoughtful husbands and considerate sons went dashing to retrieve cars and pick up their women-folk at the nearest door of the church; I waited for some slack. I had an umbrella, but it was a minor-league brand, bought in a pinch at a drugstore counter and kept because it was small enough to fit into the side-pocket of my backpack. I finally followed a lady-on-a-walker down the ramp, half-shielding her with my tiny umbrella; her son ran to open the car door for her, folded her walker and put it in the trunk; I waved goodbye as she settled herself in the front seat and untied her plastic rainbonnet. My shirtsleeves were wet and my backpack was soaked by the time I reached my car, but it was a warm day, no harm.

Two blocks to the capitol, the next concert began at 4; I circled the capitol and circled back again; the rain had gained new strength and the lightning kept sparking over the capitol dome; did I want to walk on the highest hill in the city in a lightning storm? I pulled beside the guard gate and asked for help; he promised to let me in the basement if I could park close by. Hand-holding couples in shorts and sandals strolled casually along the sidewalk, so, maybe, the 27 choir capitollightning will strike them and not me? I parked and made my way up the hill; the guard, as promised, unlocked the basement door and let me in.

The capitol rotunda – what better setting for a patriotic day? Folding chairs were rowed facing the staircase, a grand piano awaited the choruses. I grabbed a program from the Visitor Desk and found my seat, tucking that soggy umbrella underneath my chair. Monticello Men’s Chorus and Liberte Women’s Chorus Present a Salute to Veterans, I read. “We want people to remember 27 markerthe true significance of a holiday that was started to remember those who died in the Civil War, although over the years families have made it a holiday to remember all ancestors who have died, regardless of their military service.” The program listed names: Men’s Chorus Director Cindy Dunstan-McClain; Women’s Chorus Director Carol Beach; Tisha Celada, principal flautist for The Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra; Bill Lehman, organist for the Methodist Church in Jefferson City; twenty-seven performers who made up the choruses. Local people, giving to their community. Glory, glory, hallelujah; thank you Julia Ward Howe, and thank you citizens of Jefferson City; you’ve got it right.

“If you want to express your thanks for our concert today, we ask that you make a contribution to Honor Flight Organization,” the host announced at the concert’s end. Back in my room, the national evening news featured veterans standing at various memorials in Washington DC today, sent there by the Honor Flight Organization! I’d never heard of it 27 honorbefore; now twice in a day; of course I looked it up. I learned that is it a non-profit organization that transports veterans to Washington to visit the memorials built in their honor; top priority is given to World War II survivors and veterans who may be terminally ill. The trip is absolutely free; and a guardian flies with the veterans on every flight to provide assistance and make sure they have a safe and memorable experience. The application form is emphatic – disability does not limit acceptance; the form asks for all medical information so proper care can be provided. Flights go out of hubs all over the country; at the end of 2012 more than 98,500 veterans have made the trip; the goal for 2013 is to fly at least 20,000 more veterans to Washington.

Glory, glory, hallelujah, this was a Memorial Day to remember. Will Rogers once said “We can’t all be heroes. Some of us have to stand and clap as others go.” But we can do more than that, we can give our support in many, many ways. Like making beautiful music that touches hearts, and inspires people to live in positive ways. That’s pretty heroic too.

Make a donation to Honor Flight Network @

Support the Jefferson City Community Symphonic Band @

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me, as he died to make men holy, let us live to make men free, while truth is marching on.