Sabbatical Reflections: “Dear Jean” in Berea, KY

Journal Entry:  5/23/14

The “Dear Jean” Concert at Union Church in Berea, KY, tonight was a phenomenal experience!  Jean Ritchie lives in Berea and is a member of the church Rachel Small Stokes serves.  She’s had a stroke and is in her early 90s, I think.  Last night John McCutcheon, Susie Glaze, and Kathy Mattea (with some friends) sang many of Jean’s songs.  A wonderful, wonderful experience.

Some thoughts during the concert…

—7:28 p.m.  (concert started at 7:30)–Jean is wheeled in.  She gets a standing ovation.  I want to live my life in such a way that simply wheeling me in gets a SO.

–”Brightest and Best”–How can something that touches my center also bear me up on light?

–Jean Ritchie’s hands–I couldn’t see her face from where I was sitting, but I could see her hands.  They were loosely clasped, fingers entwined, gently following (directing?) the music.

–John McCutcheon picked up his mountain dulcimer to play only to discover it had a broken string.  An elderly woman in the audience just happened to have hers with her.  She offered it up, John took it and made some great music.  “A dulcimer for the cause,” he quipped.

–Kathy Mattea: “Music helps us process emotions.”

–Kathy told the story of doing a song with Jean.  Jean:  “You’re not doing it right.”  Kathy:  “Teach me.”  Jean did.  They sang the song together in performance….but there was no recording made.  Kathy:  “I like it like that.  It lives in my body.  My body remembers it.”

–Of “Now Is the Cool of the Day”–Kathy to Jean:  “What was going on when you wrote that song?  Were you just really, really mad?”  Jean:  “No.  I was ironing.  It was really hot.”  🙂

–Lesson I learned from the concert?  WE MUST SING TOGETHER!!!!

May 24, 2014  (Saturday, 8:22 p.m.)

On the way home today, Allen and I listened to most of the 2 CD set they gave us at the “Dear Jean” concert last night.  It’s lots of different artists doing “covers” of  songs Jean either wrote or popularized.  Amazing.  Judy Collins.  John McCutcheon.  Susie Glaze.  Kim and Reggie Harris.  Janis Ian.  And lots of other folks I hadn’t heard of, but who make beautiful music.


I HIGHLY recommend the “Dear Jean” CD set.  All the tracks are terrific, but the most haunting of all of them is Suzie Glaze’s acappella singing of “West Virginia Cole Mine Disaster.”  That song undoes me every time I hear it.

I also HIGHLY recommend Kathy Mattea’s album “Coal.”  She does a great version of “Now is the Cool of the Day.”  Other tracks:  “The L and N Don’t Stop Here Anymore,” “Blue Diamond Mines,” and the beautifully devastating, “Red-Winged Black Bird.”

I also HIGHLY recommend anything by John McCutcheon….but I’ll say more–much more–about John later.

To learn more about Jean Ritchie, here’s a link to a Wikipedia article about her and the important work she did as a “Song Hunter” in Appalachia as well as Ireland, England, and Scotland:

About reallifepastor

I'm a pastor who's working out her faith...just like everyone else.
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