Of time, spring and the Glen

April 20, 1994|By Gwinn Owens

I hear the call of spring, where woodlands abound:

It makes the echoes ring, the hills around,

With its welcome sound.

THAT was what we sang in the Glen; soprano children in three parts. Now I wander back to the Glen to recapture those exquisite springtime harmonies. How beautiful, sad and frightening to cross the barrier of time! It was only yesterday, wasn't it? No, not yesterday. It was 60 years ago. Then why do I remember it so well? Time, with music at its bidding, is a trickster.

There is just enough surviving of the Glen that if I shield my peripheral vision, I see it almost as it was then, a forest glade fresh with spring flowers and wild creatures. I view it from a point just behind what is now called Van Bokkelen Hall at what is now called Towson State University.

I try not to resent that name for what, in my time, was the brand new building of the Campus Elementary School. The school was there to provide demonstration classes for tyro teachers of the Maryland State Normal School. The Campus School (its song told us it was "out upon a wooded hillside, shining like a jewel") moved long after my time to yet a newer building. It's dead now, killed by politicians who never heard the music wafting from the Glen.

Song birds out in the orchard trees, hear them sing!

Gulls afar on the shining seas, wheel and swing.

Shine, O, sun in your cloudless skies,

Fair as laughter in friendly eyes;

Oh the world's made new, and our dreams come true

On this morn in spring.

Alas for the current scene. I uncup my eyes and see a congeries of disparate, discordant buildings fashioned by feuding architects who can't even sing in one-part harmony and who crushed my childhood under bricks.

Fourteen thousand students. This is progress! Glen, get out of the way.

I wonder if any of these students can sing. Our music teacher, Hazel MacDonald, could make children sing like angels, especially when we held a spring pageant in the Glen. Delicate soprano voices transmuted into flutes and bells, singing as only the innocent can.

Is it that they can't sing like that anymore because they are no longer innocent? (A modern educationist told me children "aren't ready" to sing in three parts at that tender age. Oh?)

Hazel MacDonald is gone now, unless she's lived to 120. No one took her place. No one could. They're all gone. The school is gone. I am almost all gone, except for the songs. I had an aunt who died at 94 having forgotten almost everything except the songs she had sung in her life. She sang one of them straight through the day before she died.

Music is both the enemy and the handmaiden of time. It recalls for us and says it was only yesterday, then it reminds us it was not.

It is those songs that bring me back to the Glen in the spring of the year, in the autumn of life. I come hoping to use music as the all-powerful weapon to vanquish time. It is easy; just sing.

Golden sun, silver dew;

Breezes, soft skies of blue,

Faint perfume of orchard bloom,

Tell us that spring is new.

Gwinn Owens, former editor of this page, also plays the cello.

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