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Martingales give the gift of gospel hymns

Martingales give the gift of gospel hymns
Martingales give the gift of gospel hymns | Martingales

Martingale Dorothy Kennedy requests some help from the deep bass voice of Jake Rogers, whose grandfather Kenneth Rogers has invited him to sing with them for the summer at the Martin Senior Adult Center every Monday evening.
For years, unique songbirds, indigenous to this area,  have been flocking to the Senior Center on Lindell Street on Monday evenings, squeezing in an hour of songs  that would challenge the repertoire of any Mockingbird on his high sunset perch.
This particular species was never painted by Audubon and is not listed in any birding manuals.
But their songs bring joy to the hearts of many who look forward to hearing their familiar gospel strains on Thursday afternoons in the assisted living and nursing homes of the area. They can also be heard at an occasional wedding or funeral.
Though they sing in the early evening, they are not Nightingales. These are  the Martingales of Martin, Tenn.
The 20 or so men and women, mostly of senior age, who gathered Monday for “rehearsal” cannot remember just how long Martingales have been assembling for song in Martin. A few have been singing in the group for almost 20 years, but they say the group pre-dates them.
Current song leader, Bill Johnson, says the first leader was Wayne Parham, now deceased, who had the multi-denominational group meeting in the First Methodist Church. After him came Kenneth Blake and Hollis Letterlin.
As leader, Johnson’s task is to call on members of the group to lead them in a favorite tune out of their worn tome of, “Best Loved Songs and Hymns.” Everyone gets a turn and alternating pianists Gladys Simmons and Beverly Stott seem to have no trouble keeping up with the selections.
“Everyone has their favorites,” laughs Johnson, and if someone gets to a favorite before them, they fuss a little.”
Some of the songbirds do not need to look at the words. They know the familiar classics so well. Drumming their fingers on their knees, they keep time to songs like, “I’ve Got That Ole Time Religion in My Heart,” or “I’m Camping on Canaan’s Happy Land.”
And when they sing number 260, “Blessed Assurance,” the words become like an anthem to their lives. “This is my story, this is my song …”
When asked what keeps them coming back every Monday night, a group of ladies shout out from across the room “a love of gospel singing.” This summer, two younger singers, Jake and Will Rogers, grandsons of Kenneth Rogers, blend some younger strains into the music. Jake, a Dresden High student adds some deep bass notes to the occasional second part refrain.
Johnson says that  some Martingales will share their music with  Hillview in Dresden this Thursday and Van Ayer, Martin Health Care and Greenbriar on subsequent Thursdays.
As the 5-6 hour draws to a close, and Walter Haden jokes about “putting in overtime,” there is a request for “When They Ring the Golden Bells.”
Then the  Martingales part for this Monday evening on yet another tune, “As we go our separate ways …”

WCP 8.04.11

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