I first heard of the music of Kate Campbell by a most unforeseen way. I was on vacation in New Mexico during the summer of 2001 with my best friend. My friend had gone to Starbuck’s to get coffee, and listening to NPR on the way, she heard about a musician named Kate Campbell.
What grabbed my friend’s attention was the song they highlighted–The Last Song. The Last Song imagines what the disciples did as they left the upper room and traveled towards the garden the night before Jesus’ crucifixion.
After the supper was over and the table had been cleared away
When the last bottle was empty, there was nothing much left to say
Jesus started humming an old tune, everybody fell right in
They sang the last song, the last song
Matthew started singing the low part, John grabbed the high harmony
Their voices filled up the night air all the way to Gethsemane
Judas walked some distance behind them like he had forgotten the words
They sang the last song, the last song.
We immediately went on a quest to find Kate’s music, and I have followed her–literally at times–since.
I’ve heard Kate play at a variety of venues including once at a concert we held at St. Mary’s. I attended another concert in a small club one Advent and heard a new song, Jesus is the Way Home, that became the inspiration for the ever important Christmas sermon that year.
Last Easter Friday, I traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, for a concert honoring Eudora Welty’s Centennial. (An aside: I have been very surprised at the number of folks who have never heard of Eudora Welty, especially since she won the Pulitzer in 1973 for The Optimist’s Daughter). That night, four Southern women, writers and singers, honored Miss Eudora with a concert of music that had been inspired by her–Claire Holley, Caroline Herring, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Kate Campbell.
The women sat on stage together and told stories about how Miss Eudora had influenced them and sang wonderful, wonderful songs. It was one of the best concerts I’d ever attended and a once in a lifetime event. It was worth getting stuck in Jackson the next day when my flight was cancelled due to terrible storms in Houston; it took a detour via Atlanta, a lot of prayers, and a $75 taxi ride from an aiport 40 miles away through flooded Houston streets, with even more prayers, to get home.
The singers, in interviews following, said the only negative part of the concert was that they only had that one magical night for all four of them to sit together and sing.
When the Decatur Georgia Book Festival decided that they wanted to honor Miss Eudora, her Centennial continuing, someone got the great idea to ask the four to do a repeat. After all, Caroline Herring lived in Decatur. My best friend got wind of it, and next thing I knew, I had plane reservations to Atlanta for a two day mini-vacation (thanks to our assistant priest, Eric+, for taking the Sunday morning services so I could go).
My best friend and I saw three movies, enjoyed an exhibit at the High Museum, and did some sale shopping (I wanted new shoes for the Walkabout in October). We got up early before my flight home on Sunday and had fine worship at Christ Church, Norcross, Georgia.
The highlight, however, was the concert. It was open seating, so my friend and I arrived two hours before the concert at Agnes Scott College to make sure we got good seats (we did!), and enjoyed nearly three hours of nonstop music with these very talented musicians. I didn’t think that the concert in April could be topped, but it was that evening.
As I got lost in the wonderful music, I remembered that when I went to the first concert in April, I had had a call from Sylvia Ho three days earlier inviting me to be part of Connecticut’s search for their 15th Bishop. I had never ever thought about being bishop of Connecticut, and I had never ever even thought of living in Connecticut. Now, less than five months later, I was hearing these four gifted women again, and I was now a candidate for the 15th Bishop of Connecticut, and I am definitely thinking about living in Connecticut.
I was struck, as I so very often am, by the mystery of the twists and turns of our walk with God. One of the songs sang by Claire Holley on both occasions says it best:
I’ve traveled far away……
now I’m gathered in the hands that formed the meadowlands…
I’m resting in the bounty of the Lord….
I’m believing in the bounty of the Lord…
my hope is in the bounty of the Lord.