Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Project Myrtle- Working on the "Fox Moves"

This post is dedicated to Beth Phllips Massey, Martha Ratedge Farlow, Jay Wilkins, and all of the other QLC staffers who have made music such a huge part of camp through the years.

During my first few summers on staff at Quaker Lake Camp, Martha Ratledge (now Farlow) was a lifeguard and the guitar player and song leader for our nightly worship times with junior and senior high campers. (As an aside, these times were often shown on the camp schedule as Singing and Meditation, abbreviated S & M. This always drew snickers from the staff!) Martha was great. She could sing like an angel, played guitar quite well and got the campers to sing. She only had one problem.  Well...three problems.  And they were named Alan Brown, Carl Semmler and Carl Jones.

We loved Martha.  We had known her for a long time.  And we just couldn't resist torturing her at music time.  If I had known then that when she left I would replace her in that role, I might have been more considerate...but I seriously doubt it, because we had too much fun! We would request songs she didn't like.  We would request songs she didn't know!  We would sing the words to the George Fox Song when she would play Simple Gifts, and then do the opposite when she would play George Fox.  We made up new parts to songs like I Shall Be Released, shouting out "help me, help me!" after the line "standing next to me in this lonely crowd is a man who cries he's not to blame."  Alan would randomly break into singing "they called her Lizzie," which was not actually part of any song, and people would join in.  And the kids would get more into our silly stuff than the actual songs on occasion, which frustrated Martha, a true musician.  We thought we might push her over the edge when we put the lyrics of the George Fox Song to the tune of Night Moves by Bob Seegar and called it Fox Moves.  She REALLY hated that one!

But our masterpiece of torture, and final stroke of genius in our desire to make her crazy, was Project Myrtle.  To understand what this devious plot entailed, I need to take you back, kiddies!  Back before computers, before Power Point, even before copiers.  We used song sheets at camp then, and those song sheets had to be typed on to a duplicate master and then run on a mimeograph machine. It was painstaking work, because any typos were fatal- you just had to start over.  Project Myrtle was simple, yet diabolical.  We would create our own song sheet and then one night substitute it for the real song sheet.  And Project Myrtle would contain songs the likes of which Quaker Lake had never seen before.  Along with Fox Moves and The Animal Song of our own creation, the list included The Ballad of Lizzie Borden (with the added "they called her Lizzie chorus!); Wild Thing; She's Been After Man Ever Since; Row, Row, Row Your Boat (in the key of C, naturally); and the never performed but often discussed The Parakeet Song (Google it and you will see shy we could never perform it at QLC!). This would be our finest hour! As we secretly typed the masters, we stored them in an empty refrigerator in a winter cabin that was not used during summer camp at that time.  After hours of typing and a month of so of sneaking around and clandestine activity, we were almost ready to reveal Project Myrtle to the world- and then it was gone. We still don't know what happened. We went to retrieve it from our secret frig, and it simply was not there. We were devastated, Project Myrtle was abandoned, and music time at camp was safe...for a while.

Most people never knew of Project Myrtle, and yet in its own way it did go on to change music at camp. In later years, wild and crazy songs like Barbara Ann and Lahina would cause the Fireplace Room to rock out on hot summer evenings, and that was the legacy of Project Myrtle.  Or not... In any case, it's now some 30 years later, and I am a little bit sorry for all the trouble we caused Martha.  But I am even more sorry Project Myrtle died before we ever had a chance to sing The Parakeet Song for everyone.  And every now and then, when no one is around, I pick up my guitar and start singing "working on the Fox moves..."

Because of Jesus,

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