Alice Yeakel

Bethlehem, PA

The 1930s and 1940s were the years of my childhood in Nazareth, and our family lived in a home that already had surround sound. We lived above and behind my father’s store, where he sold radios, phonographs, and 78-RPM records. When a customer chose a record, Dad would take the record from its paper sleeve and play it to prove it had no flaws. During the Holiday season he played records through a PA system so shoppers could hear the music as they walked down Main Street.

In the cellar, under our living room, was a workshop, and on Saturday afternoons a friend of Dad’s would repair radios and phonographs. He faithfully listened to the Metropolitan Opera…at full volume.

My grandparents lived upstairs on the second floor and my grandfather had a closet full of guitars, ukuleles, a banjo, and a mandolin…all acquired during the years he worked for Martin Guitar. And yes, he could play them all!

My Aunt Alice and Aunt Ruth were “single sisters”, with careers, and very independent. They both offered me opportunities to expand my teenage horizons. For my 12th birthday, Aunt Ruth took me to New York City to see the Broadway show Brigadoon. A few years later I took the train to Philadelphia, and Aunt Alice took me to the Academy of Music, where the tenor Mario Lanza gave a concert.

Many years later my husband and I planned a trip west. We scheduled our itinerary around going to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Music is so often associated with events that, because of the music, are never forgotten.

District Band was held at our school during my senior year, and 60-some teenagers performed Respighi’s Pines of Rome and Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Our church youth group built an Easter Putz, and the background music for the narration was Wagner’s Parsifal. During the 1984 Winter Olympics, Torville and Dean skated to Ravel’s Bolero and won the Gold Medal. When President Kennedy was assassinated, Barber’s Adagio for Strings was played (on TV) as people processed past the casket in the Rotunda.

The church our family attended was but half a block up the street. By the time I was 6, I was singing with the Junior Choir for prayer meetings. A new pastor came, and his daughter was studying voice at the Julliard School of Music in New York. She also gave vocal lessons and I became one of her students. She recruited me for the Senior Choir at age 12. The organist and choir director was also my piano teacher. The first time he played Charles Marie Widor’s Toccata, I was awe-struck!

I took vocal and piano lessons until high school graduation, even trying the organ for a brief time. I never really excelled, but the love and joy of music was instilled in my heart.

I firmly believe music is therapeutic. It calms. It soothes. It inspires and rejuvenates. And yes, music sometimes saddens. But music can be…and is…healing.

I am now in my 80s. For 35 years I did story-times for preschoolers at our local library, always incorporating songs.