June 26, 2009

Postcard: Mountaineer's Home

East Tennessee
(No postmark - c1907-1915)

The Rev. William S. Claiborne (1871-1933) dedicated his life to missionary work in the mountains of East Tennessee. He sought not only to bring spiritual teachings to those living in remote areas of the mountains, but also to provide education and health care.

Rev. Claiborne was ordained an Episcopal Priest in 1901 and would later become an Archdeacon. During the early 1900's, he established some twenty mission churches in Southeastern Tennessee. At Sewanee, home to the University of the South where he was a trustee, he founded the St. Andrew's Industrial School for Mountain Boys and St. Mary's on the Mountain Industrial School for Girls. These two schools would eventually be combined and still exist today as St. Andrew's-Sewanee School. He also served as superintendent of Emerald Hodgson Hospital in Sewanee.

This unused postcard, c1907-1915, was one of several used to encourage charitable giving to the work of the missionaries. Printed text on the back reads: "A Typical Mountaineer's Home – In this one room these five adults live the year round. There are no windows and no drainage. The sanitary condition can be imagined. Our Charity Hospital exists to care for the sick among these people and to teach them the laws of health. Will you help us to carry on this magnificent work? Rev. W. S. Claiborne, Rev. Stuart L. Tyson, Sewanee, Tenn."

Rev. Claiborne was the author of several books including "Twenty-one years in the mountains of Tennessee" that chronicled his years spent in missionary work. He was one of many missionaries who sought to better the lives of people through better education and better health care. A cause we still struggle to provide today.

— Dan Hardison

June 19, 2009

Eva Cassidy - Songbird

In today's world of "reality TV" and televised singing competitions where people with and without talent too often appear for the celebrity factor rather than a serious pursuit of a musical career, it is refreshing to discover someone who not only has an extraordinary voice, but who is humble and even reluctant for the spotlight.

Eva Cassidy was born in Washington, DC, into an artistic and musical family. She learned to play the guitar at an early age with her father as teacher. During and after High School, she sang in area bands always choosing to just be another member of the band. She loved music yet it was never a career pursuit, just an enjoyable hobby while performing other jobs including work at a plant nursery.

A bit shy and not comfortable being the front person, Cassidy preferred being a backup singer and singing in the recording studio behind others. She developed a reputation as a singer with a powerful voice with a natural ability for harmony and could adapt to a variety of musical styles. By 1992, she had been encouraged to make the move up front and began to perform frequently in the DC area with a backup band.

Eva Cassidy's first commercial recording would be a duet album with Chuck Brown, a favorite DC performer who had already recorded several albums. "Her voice projected her feelings, and I could feel everything she was singing," Brown has said.

Cassidy could sing anything: folk, blues, pop, jazz, R&B, gospel, standards - and she did. When she performed, she would move from one style to another and make each her own. Record companies showed interest in her, but they wanted someone who could fit neatly into one category, they did not know what to do with a singer like her. Cassidy did release a live album and worked in the studio on an album she would never see released.

In 1996, Eva Cassidy was diagnosed with melanoma that had already spread to her bones. Although she immediately began chemotherapy, she was given only three months to live. Cassidy would sing in public for the last time in September of 1996.

Friends in the music community had organized a tribute concert for her at a popular nightclub in Georgetown. The club was packed that night with Cassidy's friends and fans as fellow musicians took the stage to perform for her. At the end of the evening, Eva Cassidy was introduced. Frail, she appeared on stage using a walker. After being helped onto a stool and handed her guitar, Eva began the Louis Armstrong standard "What a Wonderful World." The song began weak, but grew in strength with the voice everyone knew and loved. It is said that by song's end, there was not a dry eye in the club except for Eva's.

After the concert, Eva's health began a steady decline. On November 2, Eva Cassidy died, age 33.

A compilation of her recordings was released in 1998 as the album "Songbird." In 2001, the album reached number 1 on the UK charts. It became a success throughout Europe, eventually finding success in the US as well. Since then, several albums of her music have been released as her popularity continued to spread.

Several television shows and movies have since featured her music. When the producer's for the movie "Maid in Manhattan" wanted to use singer/songwriter Paul Simon's song "Kathy's Song," he suggested they use Cassidy's recording of it instead of his own.

Singer/songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter referenced Eva in her song "My Heaven" with the line, "More memories than my heart can hold, when Eva's singing Fields of Gold." Sting, the "Fields of Gold" songwriter, is said to have been moved to tears when he heard Cassidy's version of his song.

Even the judges on television's "American Idol" have used Eva Cassidy as an example to contestants for her voice and song arrangements. She never sought fame in life, but after her death the world finally found her.

At the tribute concert in 1996, as Eva Cassidy completed the song "What a Wonderful World" she sang the final line "I think to myself, oh, what a wonderful world" and looked around at the audience. With a wave of the hand and "Thank you so much, thank you so much," she was gone.

— Dan Hardison

Photo by Dan Hardison Wilmington, North Carolina

June 12, 2009

The Path

The path before us
awaits our journey.
A path of our choosing –
our destiny not always certain.

We can choose to be in a rush
and chance to miss the beauty
and opportunities
along the way.

Or we can choose a pace
that is measured and slow
and enjoy all that awaits us.

The choice is ours . . .
the path is waiting.

— Dan Hardison

Photo by Dan Hardison
Linville Falls, Western North Carolina

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June 5, 2009


The windows of the place wherein I dwell

I will make beautiful. No garish light
Shall enter crudely; but with colors bright,

And warm and throbbing I will weave a spell,
In rainbow harmony the theme to tell

Of sage and simple saint and noble knight,
Beggar and king who fought the gallant fight.

These shall transfigure even my poor cell.

But when the shadows of the night begin,

And sifted sunlight falls no more on me,

May I have learned to light my lamp within;

So that the passing world may look and see

Still the same radiance, though with paler hue,
Of the sweet lives that help men to live true.

Abbie Farwell Brown
From the anthology "High Tide: Songs of Joy and Vision from the Present-Day Poets of America and Great Britain", 1916.

Photo by Dan Hardison
New Hanover Arboretum - Wilmington, NC

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