The children’s TV show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was musical, and repeated songs were often ones that Rogers himself had written.
Author Gavin Edwards calls his third way to be like Mister Rogers “Make a joyful noise,” in his book “Kindness and Wonder.” Catch up to previous “ways” in posts from recent Mondays. As Edwards notes, “Fred Rogers wrote hundreds of songs for his program, few of them longer than a minute or two.” While some Edwards mentions are too obscure even for a musical and devoted viewer like me, he says “others topped his personal hit parade, appearing in show after show for decades, until children could not only sing along, but believe in the messages that Mister Rogers expressed through his lyrics.”
Reading this just after Christmas, I couldn’t help wondering about a connection to the seminary education of Fred Rogers. In church at Advent and Christmas, singing the hymns I sing every year — and have sung since the days I was a frequent visitor to the TV neighborhood — was a major and beloved part of the season’s meaning.
Fred Rogers — I still feel so grown-up writing about my “television neighbor” that way — was surrounded by music. “And because Fred surrounded himself with people who acted like making music was an autonomous body function,” Gavin Edwards wrote, “he sometimes forgot that not everybody lived in a world suffused with melody, where the most apt metaphor for a developmental challenge was a key change, where music provided the vocabulary to say things that you couldn’t express any other way.”
I get that. Part of the “make-believe” of my home is the closet I refer to as my cello’s closet. Since my father sold his house several years ago, my cello has been sharing “his” closet with Dad’s violin.
I play and practice on my cello, and I see now that I should do more for the play and the joy of it. (One more lesson; thank you, Mister Rogers.) There are pieces it just feels good for my hands to do, as well as for my ears to hear.
I think more of playing with the violin than playing on it, at least so far. But I do play with it, to give my hands a different way to play — over different distances, for one thing — and I love figuring out new things for “us” to do.
If you don’t have an instrument in the house, this week you can try the instrument in your throat — sing! You never know which neighbors might sing along.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
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