So my friend Earl has weighed in again, this time on my Manse Years Musical Challenge, offering up quite a lovely version of The Beach Boys‘ God Only Knows, sans instrumentation. Pretty much reinforces what a musical genius Brian Wilson was (and is), and how amazing their harmonies were. Earl’s comment was, “When these guys hit all the right notes, instead of fighting and self-destructing, they were doing secular hymns.” Let’s have a look and listen, and then (you won’t be surprised to know) I have a few more thoughts – odd places my brain took me when I was thinking about the Beach Boys and Earl’s comment. But first, take it away, Brian:
Okay, so there’s that. But Earl’s phrase “secular hymns” got me thinking about an old CBC-TV show, partly because the show featured hymns, and partly because when Earl and I worked together at the Montreal Gazette we shared many a happy (and hilarious) reminiscence of old CBC-TV programs. First and foremost being – how could it not? – Front Page Challenge, though a close second was Razzle Dazzle, complete with Howard the Turtle and of course the pretty and fresh-faced Trudy Young. More on those shows another day, perhaps. For now, let’s talk about Hymn Sing.
Do you remember it, folks? It aired on Sunday afternoons back in my childhood at the Manse in Queensborough in the 1960s and ’70s. (And in fact I was astonished just now to discover that it kept going until 1995.) It featured an extraordinarily white group of youngish people, nicely dressed and singing favourite hymns. It was a thoroughly pleasant show, especially if, like me, you have a fondness for good hymns; but it was a bit – well, stiff, shall we say. (And did I mention white?)
If you’d like to know more about the show – like, did you know it was produced in Winnipeg? – you can find it here; and if you’re a total Hymn Sing nut, you can get an episode-by-episode guide here. (If you ask me, that’s a bit much.) Sadly I was unable to find any videos of those young people actually singing, but those of us who remember the show can always replay it in our heads.
I do, however, have one little treat for you: the song those nice young people always sang as the closing credits rolled. Close your eyes and it’ll take you right back to Sunday afternoons at the Manse, or wherever in Canada you happened to grow up:
Okay, now I think it’s time to go back and close with Brian Wilson and my own favourite Beach Boys song. Not a secular hymn, perhaps, but the harmonies are – well, divine. And since it’s a promotional video for the band from way back in the day, it’s got a happy 1960s madcap air to it too. Something to enjoy on a Friday night!