Come with thy sweet voice again!
Come, oh! come again!
Come with thy sweet voice again! Come again!
Come with thy sweet voice again!
Come, oh! come again!
Come with thy sweet voice again!”
— The chorus of “Come with Thy Sweet Voice Again” written and composed by Stephen C. Foster.
My article is entitled “Around the Banks of the Suwannee.” “Around” meaning some place close to the Suwannee. River. It’s one of those expressions that is clearly understood by natives of the area but charmingly nebulous at the same time, and I will give you an example of another one of “our own”: “The other day.” We use that expression so much in this area: “I saw so and so the other day,” now we never ask anyone to pin down when the “other day” was, it could have been two or three days ago or it could have been two or three weeks ago, but we all understand it and shake our heads knowingly when it’s expressed. It’s as common as “Bless your heart,” which also has multiple meanings and we understand that one too.
So I will share with all of you that “the other day,” and, in this case, that was Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, beginning at 4 p.m., several fortunate audience members enjoyed a “first rate” concert at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park performed by three of the State of Florida’s most outstanding folk singers and songwriters: Jeanie Fitchen, Joe Mark and Mark Smith. These artists donated their time and talents for a very worthy cause; the continued restoration of the historic Stephen Foster Carillon bells.
The bell system took an electrical hit from “Mother Nature” some time ago, longer than “the other day,” which rendered the bells inoperable. BUT, with the determination, focus, and hard work of the Stephen Foster Citizens Support Organization, hundreds of generous individuals across the state of Florida, and so many talented members of the state of Florida’s folk music community, as well as the staff of Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks, the bells are now operable and able to play, but still need more work to make all three sets of the world’s largest set of tubular bells fully operable.
As these wonderful performing artists sang in the comfort of the park service auditorium, which, by the way, is a wonderful venue for a concert, indoors, climate controlled, comfortable seating, good sound, and easy accessibility to large, handicapped accessible restrooms, it’s an ideal place for anyone to enjoy a concert, comfortable, and I am all about comfort and climate control. Let the young perspire and gyrate bless their hearts, I did my share of it, but that was the “other day,” and I mean the “other day.”
I write this and utilized the lyrics of Foster’s chorus to “Come with Thy Sweet Voice Again,” because music, for so many years has continued to “draw” countless thousands here “Around the Banks of the Suwannee.” People from all parts of the world have come again and again to hear those sweet voices, to appreciate those sweet voices and to share sweet voices and music with us. We are blessed we have great venues who have strongly encouraged, and effectively marketed our area as a music and song destination, and, as a result, our entire area continues to benefit from something extremely positive, “music and song;” those sweet voices that come to us again and again.
In our world we have trouble, issues, and all kinds of “rigmarole,” another good Southern expression, but we, regardless of our places of birth, backgrounds, regardless of political differences, all of us can all appreciate the universal language of music. Wonderful music and song that has been shared with people from all parts of our world here in “Around the Banks of the Suwannee.”
“Our” Suwannee River is the centerpiece for all of this music and song, a river that never completely gives up all of her songs nor secrets, but keeps singing, moving, and sharing, beauty, hope, love, laughter, and bounty, and we need that in our world, maybe more than we have ever needed it before. However, this river, because of one composer who never laid eyes on it, and who “shortened its name,” to fit his song, you know the one, that song, truly caused thousands to bring their sweet voices again, what a gift. What a blessing, truly. Think of it.
So thank you for everyone who utilizes expressions like “the other day”, and “over yonder” and, who with genuine appreciation expresses appreciation and gratitude for the wonderful gift of music and song brought to us here “Around the Banks of the Suwannee,” and we thank all the hard working individuals, civic and religious organizations, who are working daily to keep the “songs a comin.” In short, if you are the reason for a song being shared “thank you,” “Amazing Grace,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior,” “Free Bird,” “Smoke on the Water,” “Your Cheating Heart,” “Chain of Fools,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “Old Folks at Home.” Keep those songs coming to us again and again. We love those sweet songs, and we continue to need them. Like the ceaseless flowing of the Suwannee, we hope you keep a song in your heart each day.
From the Eight Mile Still on the Woodpecker Route north of White Springs, wishing you a day filled with joy, peace, and, above all lots of love and laughter.