Tag Archives: music

Downsview Station Jazz Rap [Poem by Mom]

The wonderful thing about having a blog devoted to biblical studies is that you can legitimately include almost any topic under the sun, since the Bible itself includes just about every sort of topic imaginable. So if this month’s poem from Mom doesn’t sound sufficiently biblical or spiritual, go read something like a Gospel account of Jesus interacting with children or the story of Hannah and Samuel or even the Song of Songs, then read Mom’s poem again. I think you’ll see it fits in very well indeed.

This poem was written in honor of our firstborn daughter, who just turned seven. When she was still very new, we took her on an overnight bus ride from our home in Queens, New York, to Toronto, Ontario, to introduce her to my family for the first time.

The Manhattan skyline at dusk.  Photo Credit: Ana Paula Hirama via Compfight cc

I clearly remember little Priya on that overnight ride, eyes wide open, taking in all the sights—the curbside Manhattan bus stop, the fellow passengers, the bright lights outside the bus window, and, when whenever we pointed her in the wrong direction, the long-forgotten movie flashing on the bus monitors.

NeonBusStop Photo Credit: Stewart via Compfight cc

I think she squeaked only about once on that whole roughly-10-hour ride. She spent much of her time sleeping, and the rest of it looking wide-eyed at the wide world. We’d had fearful visions of keeping fellow passengers awake all night with a crying baby. But the trip turned out to be, as I recall, a magical experience for all of us.

The CN Tower rising behind Union Station, much as we glimpsed it before dawn that morning.
The CN Tower rising behind Union Station, much as we glimpsed it before dawn that morning. Photo Credit: wyliepoon via Compfight cc

We arrived in Canada’s largest city, at downtown Union Station, early in the morning. After strolling around mostly underground a while, past closed shops, we found the subway line heading to the north edge of Toronto.


After years of subway riding in NYC, it was fun to ride a subway in Toronto, for perhaps only the second time in my life. Perhaps my Canadian memory is just biased, but I’m recalling that the TO subway was quieter and cleaner than those in NYC.

downsview-IMG_2919Photo credit: Nathan Ng (See his Downsview Station photo collection.)

Soon we reached Downsview Station, the end of the line. There we worked our way above ground and found the passenger pickup waiting area.

The inside of the passenger pickup area where we waited for Mom and Dad. Photo credit: Nathan Ng.

Bright-eyed little Priya was a charm the whole way, and as we waited at Downsview for my parents to arrive to drive us to home in Parry Sound, all her innocent baby charm was poised to capture their hearts, too.

trip to Parry Sound Jan '09, etc 107
Photo of Priya during our Parry Sound visit.

I’ll let Mom continue from here. But first, perhaps this is a good time to remind you that “travelled,” “traveller” and “centre” are perfectly proper spelling for a Canadian poet!

Ken and I met Priya Simone, our fourth grandchild, on January 22, 2009. She was six weeks old when she and her parents visited us, and I wrote this poem after her return to her home in New York City.

I’m not sure what the genesis was for the style of this poem. I know little about jazz, and less about rap. Perhaps the rhythm was born of the turning of wheels, the tension and excitement from memories of subway rides in New York City, the relentless forward advance from the gritty determination to survive the wrenching separation from our newest grandchild after such a brief time together.

This was northern bush country grandmother meeting city granddaughter. Was I wondering if we could speak the same language, make the same music? But it was love at first sight.

I can still visualize the indoor park bench at Downsview Subway Station in Toronto, with tiny baby, wrapped against the winter cold, lying there so innocent and vulnerable, so out of place in an urban transit center filled with strangers, aloof and transient. She seemed to have been just dropped there out of nowhere, a gift to our world. With father and mother hovering nearby the image becomes in my mind a modern nativity, a babe in an unlikely place, of immense import to the two of us who had come to welcome her. With awe we peeked inside the blankets to gaze on our new little granddaughter, Priya. Then we all travelled north to celebrate a belated Christmas.

Christmas: to us a child is born. Christmas: the arrival of a child. Christmas: the journey to welcome, to worship, to open our hearts. Christmas: each baby born is a reminder, every journey an opportunity for pilgrimage, and every Christmas season another opportunity to worship.

—Elaine Gingrich, December 12, 2015

The passenger pickup waiting area where Mom and Dad first saw Priya—on a much colder morning.
The outside of the passenger pickup area where Mom and Dad first saw Priya–on a much colder morning. Photo credit: Nathan Ng.

To Priya (“Beloved”)

We met in Downsview station
When you visited our nation
From New York City on the overnight bus.
Parry Sound your destination
But Toronto the location
Where streets were gray and gritty when you first met us.

You slept like a pro on the overnight bus
Like a seasoned traveller who makes no fuss.
Child of the city, an urban daughter,
We met you at last, our third granddaughter.
Cradled on a bench in a subway shelter
You smiled contentedly in the chilly weather.

Downsview station
Parry Sound your destination
On the overnight bus
When you first met us.

In the chaos of commute, an island of repose,
I fell in love with you, from dark eyes to tiny toes,
The centre of our universe as travellers passed us by,
Unbelievably diminutive to hold our hopes so high.
Petite determination, tiny but so strong—
I ached to get acquainted and it didn’t take long.
You opened up your heart to us—so full of ready smiles
To grow a bond connecting us across the years and miles
With all the stunning impact of a little grandchild’s powers.
And all my mothering instincts rose to claim you—you are ours!

Downsview station
Petite determination
Making no fuss
When you first met us.

We headed up the highway to your family from away
To make the most of loving you, to count each precious day.
Child of New York City, but the north is in your veins.
Born south of the border, but the ancestry remains—
Looking like your daddy with your mommy’s eyes
Old baby photos demonstrate our family ties.
Through wonders of development and genealogy,
Genetics, procreation—God designed who you would be.

Jazz Loop:              Downsview Downsview station

Overnight bus.

Overnight bus

Where you first met us.

First met us

From the overnight bus
At Downsview station
Where you first met us.

Downsview station is where we said goodbye
Only one week later–I thought my heart would die—
A visceral tug as your parents rushed away
Among their bags and luggage toting you—you could not stay.

Downsview Downsview station
And you make no fuss
Heading via subway
To the overnight bus.
Back to New York City
Where the streets are gray and gritty.
Petite determination
With no choice of destination.

It was Downsview station where we met,
It is Downsview station when I close my eyes.
I see it in twilight—an empty park bench set
In the vacant station where I heard your gurgled cries.

Downsview station
Where you left our nation
On an overnight bus
But I will not fuss.

—Elaine Gingrich, February 6, 2009

Mom and Dad saying bye to Priya before she begins her homeward journey by subway, overnight bus, and subway, back to her home in NYC.
Mom and Dad saying bye to Priya before she begins her homeward journey by subway, overnight bus, and subway again, back to her home in NYC.

For the rest of the poems in this monthly series, see here.

And if you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  Thanks!

I can’t resist adding a few more pictures from Priya’s first visit to her northern grandparents. Here are some highlights.

Our Parry Sound destination--Mom and Dad's house under a deep blanket of snow, with clouds above promising still more.
Our Parry Sound destination–Mom and Dad’s house under a deep blanket of snow, with clouds above promising still more.
Mom holding Priya while receiving the news that another granddaughter had just been born. Big sisters (Priya's cousins) share the wonder.
Mom holding Priya while receiving the news that another granddaughter had just been born–Priya’s cousin Megan. Big sisters Emily and Natalia share the wonder.
Mothers and babies: Chris with Megan (left) and Zonya with Priya (right).
Mothers and babies: Chris with Megan (left) and Zonya with Priya (right).
And the dads: Me with my big brother Tim.
And the dads: Me with my big brother Tim.
Taking Priya skating for the first time, in Parry Sound's Bobby Orr Community Centre.
Taking Priya skating for the first time, in Parry Sound’s Bobby Orr Community Centre.  Dad is pleased but needs to work on his posture.
Priya seemed to enjoy it.
Priya was a real natural on the ice.
Time for a chat with the coach.
Time for a chat with the coach. Pretty good game, eh?
Four generations: Priya, me, Mom, and Mom's parents. We owe more than we can fathom to those who have gone before us.
Four generations: Priya, me, Mom, and Mom’s parents. We owe more than we can fathom to those who have gone before us.

Music-making and bonding in multicultural churches

(Old Facebook Post)

This is fascinating! As someone who has spent significant time pondering and reading about to what extent musical languages are universal, this article corroborates my conclusions. (Musical languages are mostly not universal. This challenges a lot of conservative assumptions about “good” and “bad” music and the “inevitable” effect certain kinds of music will have upon a person.)

[amazon template=thumbnail11&asin=0195392973]But this article (and [amazon text=the book reviewed&asin=0195392973]) also surprise me with another idea: apparently musical success in a multicultural church is determined less by the extent to which multiple musical styles are incorporated into the worship service than by the extent to which the group bonds around any style in mutual, shared music-making. In other words, give more effort to including everyone in making music together (use all the local talent you can awaken, involve everyone) and lose less sleep trying to include the traditional musics of each sub-culture in your church. The later is good, but apparently not absolutely essential for congregational satisfaction.

I suspect there are additional considerations not mentioned in the article: What about newcomers to the church, who may face a musical language they do not know and in which they have not yet participated in musical fellowship? What about musical language differences that are so large that it is hard for people to begin entering into a true fellowship of shared music making? In such cases, would it not be better to begin the shared music-making process with a mixture of musical languages that are closer to what people already know?

On borrowing pagan musical forms

(Old Facebook Post – Revised)

I find hard to believe that heavenly music will be restricted to the styles of 16th to 19th century Europe. The Bible itself demonstrates the appropriateness of borrowing from other musical cultures:

“It is clear that Israel’s psalms have in some places happily taken over Canaanite poetic meter, imagery, and even aspects of their mythology and utilized it all in extolling the unique sovereign and providential power of YHWH.” – Christopher Wright, The Mission of God (footnote on page 443)

I’ve done some study of how music “means,” looking both at music history and at some scientific literature. I’ve concluded that there is some intrinsic emotional meaning to some sounds (for example, sudden, loud or fast sounds tend to increase the excitement level–or, more accurately according to scientific literature, it is unexpected sounds that do this, so an unexpected silence can achieve the same), but that most of the meaning/affective power of music comes from the extrinsic associations we bind up with a particular kind of sound, thanks to our past history and teaching regarding that kind of sound. What we hear and enjoy in our adolescence/youth tends to become the norm by which we experience and compare all other musics we subsequently hear throughout life.

(I’ve heard a story of an ex-Satanist fleeing a church because of the organ music of Bach, which had been used in his Satanic cult, and another story of a mother and infant in severe distress during birth, until medical personnel were convinced to play her favorite heavy metal music–at which point the baby’s heart rate calmed down, as did the mother, and the birth proceeded successfully.)

I think much fundamentalist/conservative Anabaptist teaching regarding music is a reactionary theology, developed on the “battlefield” in response to the rock and roll music revolution, during which time certain sounds were connected quite closely by a majority of musicians with an evil lifestyle. Those concerns were valid for the time. However, such music today is does not carry those evil associations to a majority of listeners and performers, being innocent enough to be useable for radio jingles and children’s educational songs.

The suitability of musical sounds is an important question, yes, but the deeper question is whether the musician is using sound to bless God and neighbor. David used pagan poetic meters to praise Yahweh.