Melinda Coffey Armstead, piano & organ
Robert Armstead, bass-baritone
Seven Variations on “God Save the King” (My Country, ’tis of Thee) . . . Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
On Eagle’s Wings . . . Michael Joncas, based on Psalm 91
Variations on “Yankee Doodle” … anonymous 18th century
Following reprinted by request
Fourth of July always triggers memories of barefoot summertime: sticky watermelon juice down sunburned arms and legs, seeds spit like machine gun fire, ignoring the screams of brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends. I remember the frantic scramble for a nickel to answer the siren song of the ice-cream truck, or the frozen delight on a stick, half eaten, that softens and falls onto the ground. I know what it is to run through the sprinkler, to pull the wagon filled with water or friends or both, to hop from shadow to shadow, feet bottoms hissing in the hot sun, because I was there. I know how to catch fireflies in a jar and how to blow on them to make them flare up in green-white heat, answering the promise of romance. I remember the lure of fireworks with dangerous names, failing to deliver their deceptive promises, 45 minutes of muted detonations and “the punk’s out again,” most of the noise coming from grownups yelling at the kids to be careful. I remember, unable to wait until dark, lighting those sulfurous snakes that left their signature on the sidewalk for months afterwards. I know how to write my name in the dark with a sparkler and where to throw it to maximize adult anxiety. I know the summer-evening sound of locusts, the intoxication of honeysuckle, and the sweet hope of a later bedtime. I know the boring drone of adults inexplicably talking their summer away, wasting the heat, wasting the chance to run and yell, wasting happiness itself. I know the feeling of wet grass, of air palpable with sulfur and smoke and brass bands and patriotic songs, and of Dad’s warm hand holding mine.