My daughter, Katie, posted a photo of my granddaughter Madden in her Lady Bug costume posing with a man and woman dressed as Mary Poppins and Bert. She captioned the photo, “M meets her favorites.” I wrote, “So who is the Mary Poppins couple in the photo?”
“I have no idea. We were at a trunk-or-treat thing. But M knows all the songs and loves the movie so it was perfect.”
Music is a deep root in our family and it makes me happy to see it blooming in this little girl. It feels like success. Like one more family treasure has been preserved in the next generation.
I don’t know how far back music goes in my family; what I meant is, I don’t how many generations were musicians. But I know my grandfather, Cy Simpson, learned to play piano from a correspondence course. I wouldn’t’ve thought it possible to learn piano that way except we have a stack of his old correspondence. He learned to play shaped notes, which is an old-school way of notating music. Each shape corresponds to a different note on the scale, and changing keys is very easy.
My dad and his sister, Betty, used to stand beside the piano and sing duets while Cy played. He could change keys on a whim, even in mid-phrase, which he did often, just to mess with the singers. Joking at each other’s expense goes way back in my family, too.
As a young man my Dad lead the music in small churches all over central and west Texas. In fact, he men my mom at a revival at First Baptist Church in Ackerly, Texas. My other grandfather, Roy Haynes, was pastor, and his oldest daughter, Lenelle, played piano for the worship services. My dad was the visiting musician for the revival, what we used to call the music director and now worship leader. He was a student at the time, at Howard Payne College in Brownwood, Texas.
Music was part of our home life as far back as I have memories of anything. My dad had stacks of long-play record albums, mostly of Southern Gospel singing groups. He also had the Greatest Hits of Glen Miller, and I played it all the time. It was my first exposure to big band jazz, and hearing it so much was fundamental to my being a musician today, 50 years later.
I credit my dad with the fact I am a musician today. He never pushed or pulled me into music, but he certainly inspired me. In my life as a young boy, because of my dad’s obvious example, music was something grown men did regularly. It was a manly pursuit. So I pursued it.
And just like my Dad, I married a musician. Cyndi played melodic percussion (bells, chimes, xylophone, etc.) and I played trombone, and we played together in various church ensembles as often as possible.
Our children, Byron and Katie, became musicians. They both played piano and sang in children’s choirs. We used to sing songs together while driving around Texas in our Chevy Astro minivan. Especially during the Christmas season, which in our family begins November 1st, as soon as Halloween is over.
Both B&K went on to play trombone, and one of my favorite memories is Christmas caroling as a trombone trio. We kept trying to bring Cyndi into our group so we could become the Simpson Family Quartet, but she said we were just making fun of her as a percussionist. She was a little bit correct in the making fun part, but still, we wanted her to join.
And Cyndi and I still sing along with movie musicals. Especially during the Christmas season. We’ve already sung our way through the Muppet Christmas Carol twice this season, and White Christmas isn’t far behind.
So, back to my first story: The fact that Madden loves Mary Poppins and knows all the songs makes me a happy “Pops.” I hope we have decades of music ahead of us.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32