Of Songs and Quilts

Judith Huntress

“Singing Bird” quilt pattern by Rita Gazubey.
[This article ran in the April 2008 issue of The SCOOP.]

Perhaps it is the natural light reflecting off the fields around the township, or perhaps it is the sight of the ice floes and the sound of the wintry river that has moved me to start to sing again? I have never been able to sing, and I would say my singing has deteriorated over the years through neglect and embarrassment for my off-key interpretations.  But, starting last December, I felt that I wanted to sing, and I am doing it.

My revived singing began at the Tamworth Christmas Concert at the  Library. Between sixty and eighty adults and children came to sing along with and to listen to some of the best musical families in the area. By then the village had received its first big snowfall, and on that night, I stood at The Corner Store and watched a hayrack with the Tamworth Cyclones and their friends sitting on bales of hay, singing “Jingle Bells” as they were driven through the village. I was so amazed by the hockey players and by the music-playing families on stage that I vowed to overlook any person’s faults if he or she was in a family music group; a family that sings together redeems itself with me.

Both my late grandmothers sang around the piano from sheet music with stylized sweethearts printed on the covers, at Chautauquas with friends, at church to hymns such as The Old Rugged Cross and Faith of Our Fathers.  One of my grandmothers told me that she would sing with the women in her quilting circle, especially during World War I and during World War II when her sons and her grandson were in the Forces.  Songs sung and quilts sewn together with others are a shared experience of time, season and surroundings; music is as binding as sewing threads.

In the New Year I heard about The Tamworth Quilters, a group which meets in the Library every Monday to create commissioned quilts. They design and make their own creations to donate to the community’s and province’s disaster victims, fire victims, etc. Its eight to ten members also sing together on occasion, just like it was done before the days of modern media. The Quilters were members of the Tamworth Women’s Institute, which disbanded in 2005. The Federated Women's Institutes of Canada were formed in Ontario in 1919 by Lady Tweedsmuir, wife of the Governor General of Canada; they were and continue to be charitable organizations to help rural women and their families in their communities and W.I. members do good for the community, and they help to preserve local history. The Tamworth histories compiled by the Women’s Institute are housed as reference books at the Tamworth library; persons may contact the Librarian to access and read them there. Those interested in quilting may drop into the library on Monday mornings to visit with the group.

After Christmas, I began to sing again; I sang along with radio songs. I sang on New Year’s Eve with friends, and in early winter I sang along with the crowd at the Ian Sherwood concert in Erinsville. When the Great Snow Storm of March 8 and 9 brought its thunder and whistling winds, I did not sing. I decided that the next time for songs would be in Spring-- unless some untoward event occurs. There will be so much to sing about then; so many thanks to be given for winter’s end. The grackles, red-winged blackbirds and mourning doves will join the chorus of voices, and everyone shall stand outside in the sun and SING. Then the planting of crops and gardens will begin in earnest.