Last Friday, a group of senior citizens visited us from a retirement home. This is not unusual we get many groups from retirement centers but I saw something extraordinary happen with this group as they visited the You Are There 1914: The Violin Maker Upstairs experience. I happened to walk past as the group of about 10 senior citizens and the interpreters broke out into song. They were singing a song called When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose. I wasn’t familiar with the song, but I’m glad that the interpreters and visitors were.
The song, with lyrics by Jack Mahoney and Music by Perry Wenrich, was published in 1914. You may know it from the 1942 musical For Me and My Gal, when it was sung by Judy Garland and Gene Kelley. A couple of weeks ago, the interpreters in the 1914 space decided that they would learn songs from the early 20th century so that they could sing for and with visitors in order to add another level to their interpretation. In this case, after finding out that Mr. Conrath, the violin maker (interpreted by Craig Reasoner), was also a singer, one of the visitors from the retirement home asked if Mr. Conrath would sing her a song. He replied that he would be happy to if she would sing along. Apparently, others in the group joined in as well, and I happened along just as the melody filled the air.
I am grateful to Craig, Cheryl, Carol, Katie, Kim, Hal and Bob, the1914 interpreters, for the initiative they took in learning this and other songs. I think the music reached this particular group in a way that even conversing with the interpreters could not. According to Sara Kirkweg, a researcher with the Department of Psychology at Missouri Western State University, “Research has shown memory to be affected by many different factors. One of these factors is music, which has been found to stimulate parts of the brain. Many studies have demonstrated that music enhances the memory of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Music has also been found to reduce stress, aid relaxation and alleviate depression.” I don’t know any of the particulars of the health of members of this group, but I do know that it appeared as if the music had “struck a chord” both literally and figuratively. Not only were their minds engaged, but so were their memories. My hope is that if there was anyone in the group experiencing dementia, singing that song grounded them in a time and place in their memory and provided a liberating moment. If that kind of thing can happen here, and I think it can, than I am proud to be a part of it.
When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose
Lyrics by Jack Manoney and Music by Perry Wenrich
I met you in a garden in an old Kentucky town,
The sun was shining down, you wore a gingham gown.
I kissed you as I placed a yellow tulip in your hair,
Upon my coat you pinned a rose so rare.
Time has not changed your loveliness, you’re just as sweet to me,
I love you yet I can’t forget the days that used to be;
When you wore a tulip, a sweet yellow tulip,
And I wore a big red rose,
When you caressed me, ’twas then heaven blessed me,
What a blessing no one knows.
You made life cheery when you called me “dearie,”
’twas down where the bluegrass grows,
Your lips were sweeter than julep, when you wore that tulip,
And I wore a big red rose.
The love you vowed to cherish has not faltered thro’ the years
You banish all my fears, your voice like music cheers,
You are the same sweet girl I knew in happy days of old,
Your hair is silver, but your heart is gold.
Red roses blush no longer in your cheeks so sweet and fair,
It seems to me, dear, I can see white roses blooming there.