Sound of Joy reunites

Published 6:10 pm Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Be prepared to take a nostalgic trip along with me as I share a part of my life that has long since been put into a box and stored away only to be dusted off and brought back out this past weekend in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1982, I was a fresh face, very thin, 18 year old, newly married girl embarking on a musical and spiritual adventure. I had been out of my intimate geographical area twice by January 1982, once in the third grade my parents took us to the Smoky Mountains and the previous October for a weekend honeymoon in Pensacola, Florida. That was it. The world was a blank page to me.

I guess I’m saying I was vastly naïve and viewed the world of travel in a romantic way. I still do.

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My opportunity to travel with Sound of Joy was and still is one of the highlight years of my life. You know those certain periods of time that you savor and remember and keep in a special light.

What is Sound of Joy? Or was? In 1978, Art and Sue Crane put together a ministry, SuArt Ministries and created a traveling group of singers and musicians who toured performing Contemporary Christian music. The “it” group at the time was Truth, which some of you may be more familiar with. We were the lesser known tour group that would take Truth’s seconds in talent and in venues. If you couldn’t make it in Truth, you tried Sound of Joy.

Life on the road was tough, yet now, with kid dramas, I think God was preparing me for the future. You put personalities into such a close knit environment and they can act like kids.

We had a greyhound bus that would call in sick some days, like in Memphis and Phoenix. My closet space was 18 inches and the toilet in the back window was freaky since I could look down into your car while I did my business. Weird.

There was one incident when Susan and I — and a watermelon — tumbled over each other due to a harsh breaking road hazard. We landed in the front of the bus laughing — watermelon still intact.

SOJ did over three hundred concerts a year, which meant most every day we were performing or traveling.

A day on the road consisted of waking up (mostly in a host’s homes) getting on the bus traveling to the next destination, unloading, setting up the sound equipment, testing, rehearsing, dressing, eating, performing an hour and a half concert, tearing down the equipment, loading the bus, and going home with strangers.

And what strangers they turned out to be. Mostly, these were wonderful folks, but you got to have some nuts in the cluster. One in particular housed our lead singer, Keith. After a strange night at their house which included a dirty mattress on the floor and was filled with creepy slasher movie characters, I remember his host telling me as we were about to leave the following morning how she was sending birthday cards to the lady in the church who had recently lost her twins in some horrible accident. Freaky!

We answered all the same questions each night. Who drives the bus? What are your “real” jobs?

We performed in 27 states and visited three foreign countries. We spent five weeks in South Korea performing at churches, seminaries, military bases, prisons, and a leper colony. Yes, Leprosy has been wiped out but there are victims still left with no eyes, noses, portions of fingers, etc….We were experts at avoiding Kimchi, the smelly, spicy “rotten” cabbage dish served at every meal (Alright, fermented…..but if you’ve ever smelled cabbage gone bad….its the same.)

We toured Keith Green’s ministry in Texas just a few weeks before his death in 1982 from a plane crash. We did a spontaneous acappella performance at Red Rock in Colorado, we sang to TB patients (downwind of course) in Seoul Korea. We had a professional hula dancer perform the lyrics at one of our concerts in Hawaii.

And so the memories continue….I will not show you any home movies nor bore you with any more memories.

After all these years, you think I would have been in touch with these people I shared so much with. But we scattered to the winds, and thanks to Google, a few years ago, I began discovering ways to find and reconnect with some of the members.

Three members persisted and decided to just start a website to reunite our group. ( event) The SOJ reunion magically came together in Nashville this past weekend and the majority were able to migrate to the event. They came from San Francisco, Montana, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Illinois to Tennessee and discovered the beauty of reconnecting.

It was magic. We gave an outside concert where words were forgotten, parts were forgotten, but it had moments of glory as we remembered how good we use to be. It felt like putting on a good pair of slippers. I hope Kenny Chesney felt the same as his house was a neighbor to our former sound man’s house where the first day of reunion activities took place. So is life in Nashville.

Unlike a school reunion, where everyone is trying to prove to their classmates they have aged well, they are successful, and naturally tanned, this reunion had none of the vain competitive issues. This was bringing back a special opportunity we all were privileged to be a part of and rekindle the spirit we had back then. Sound of Joy, the touring group, ended in the early nineties, but were a huge part of the Christian music scene in its long run. The impact will only be known when we all get to heaven.

Donny Monk, our musical leader, reminded me that life is filled with compartments of time where certain people are a part of it and then we go on to the next. It is so true. I have my first marriage compartment, my SOJ compartment, my single-again compartment, my new marriage compartment, my real estate time and my new Huntsville life. In each compartment, I have a treasure of friends and experiences.

I hope to revisit those good times from each compartment as I grow older and cherish the friends I may not have in my life now but were a major part of it. I may not share my day to day life details with them, but I can reconnect with them any time and feel the bond.

Life is full of compartments. I guess I will now take my SOJ box and put it back into the attic, with new photos and memories, and I will be smiling for days as I feel the after glow of such an important gathering.

But the music refreshment in my head may take weeks to fade…. “You wonder why, why I am singing……you wonder how my heart is so high…..”