What do a historic church and a yodelling cowboy have in common?

St. Andrew's United Church by Dave deLang

Pretty and historic St. Andrew’s United Churchmy church, both in my childhood and, now, again – celebrates its 124th anniversary this coming Sunday. And there is a Queensborough-themed musical treat in store at the service, to which you are invited! (Photo by Dave deLang)

I know I use this space to tell you about a lot of special events in the Queensborough area, but people, I have to say: this one is special.

Why? Because it is a very important event in the long life of St. Andrew’s United Church – and St. Andrew’s is in turn a very important part of the history and ongoing life of the Queensborough community.

(St. Andrew’s also holds a special attachment for me personally because it is the church I grew up in, and because it was the first church that my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, served after he was ordained a minister, way back in 1964. That would be 50 years ago this year, but who’s counting? Oh. Well, actually, I guess I am.)

Anyway, this Sunday (June 29), at 11 a.m., we mark the 124th anniversary of St. Andrew’s – and you, people, are invited! Those of you who live in the Queensborough/Cooper/Hazzard’s/Eldorado/Actinolite/Madoc/Tweed/etc. areas: we’d love you to join us for the special anniversary service. And those of you who are farther afield, whether you have a connection with St. Andrew’s or not, are equally welcome!

But speaking of connections with St. Andrew’s, let me ask you: Did you perchance grow up in that church? Were you baptized or married there, or were your parents? Did you go to Sunday School at St. Andrew’s (maybe coming from Cooper on the school bus that Marg Chapman used to drive back in the ‘60s and ‘70s)? Was your mother maybe a member of the United Church Women? Did you sing in the choir? Or have you attended one (or dozens) of the Ham or Turkey Suppers there? Then you have a connection! And we’d love to see you again.

And if you’ve never been to St. Andrew’s, well, this is the perfect occasion for you to do so – and I’ll tell you why. It’s not just because it will be a nice service and a joyous occasion; and it’s not just because our minister, The Rev. Caroline Giesbrecht, delivers marvellous, thought-provoking sermons; and it’s not just because there will be special music from the women’s double trio called Praise Friends.

And it’s not even because lunch will be served after the service, though you can be sure the lunch will be excellent (because at St. Andrew’s it always is); or because it will be a chance to see old friends and to make new ones.

Those are all very compelling reasons for you to join us on Sunday. But here’s something extra special, something with a surprising and quirky link to Queensborough’s history. It’s all about a piece of music written long ago by Queensborough’s own Goldie Holmes.

Goldie Holmes

Goldie Holmes: quilter, poet, songwriter, overall renaissance woman, and Queensborough resident. (She and her husband, Art, lived kitty-corner from the Manse.) This photo is from when Goldie appeared on a 1980 episode of the CBC-TV series Heartland, interviewed in her home by the singer Sylvia Tyson. (Photo from cbc.ca)

Goldie was widely known as “the Quilt Lady” because of the quilts she made, the most famous of which – and she became quite famous indeed, as I’ve written in an extended post (complete with a link to footage from a CBC-TV interview with her) here – featured the historic homes and buildings of Queensborough. (More on those particular quilts here.)

But Goldie was not just a quilter, or just a folk artist. She was a bit of a renaissance woman, actually, and among her talents was writing poetry – and, occasionally, song lyrics.

And one of her songs, entitled Let’s Fill Our Hearts With Love, was recorded by an artist who, back in the early-middle part of the 20th century, was actually a bit of a star. (His name was Alberta Slim, and a little more about him shortly.) Not only was the song recorded, it was published and distributed as sheet music, as songs tended to be in those days. So Goldie was famous across the country for her music too!

Right, Alberta Slim – or “RCA Victor Recording Artist Alberta Slim,” as he’s announced on the cover of the sheet music for the song:

Alberta Slim

Alberta Slim, “Canada’s Yodelling Cowboy” – and the man who recorded Goldie Holmes’s song.

According to Canadian Cowboy Country Magazine, Alberta Slim (“born Eric Edwards in 1910 near Wiltshire, England) was known as “Canada’s Yodelling Cowboy” and was a legend and a pioneer of early Canadian country music. He got his start when he performed (for no money, but the promise of a piece of pie) on a Regina radio show in 1937, and really he never looked back after that. He had a bunch of hits – as far as I can see, the most famous of which was When It’s Apple Blossom Time in Annapolis Valley – and he sang with stars like Wilf Carter; he travelled the country and wrote songs about those travels (kind of like an earlier Stompin’ Tom Connors); and he became known for his “echo yodelling.” (You can read lots more about his very colourful life in the full article here. And here and here are a couple more interesting writeups about the yodelling cowboy. I mean really: who knew?)

Amazingly, Alberta Slim only died in 2005. He had a bit of a career revival in 1999, when he was 89, as folk festivals across the country started welcoming the living legend (okay, maybe “minor living legend,” but still) to their stages. He released his last CD at the age of 93.

Okay, enough about Alberta Slim, and back to Queensborough.

You can probably guess the rest, actually: the song written long ago by our own Goldie Holmes, and recorded long ago by “RCA Victor Recording Artist Alberta Slim” is going to be heard once again, this very Sunday, as part of the anniversary service at St. Andrew’s United Church. It will be performed by the talented Katherine Fleming, a member of Praise Friends – and an old friend of St. Andrew’s. Katherine was, in fact, the leader of the St. Andrew’s choir years ago, when I was a member of it. It was during those years that we choir members first learned of Goldie’s long-ago (even then) music triumph via Alberta Slim, and one Sunday back in those days (probably 1974 or 1975) we performed the song at St. Andrew’s as a tribute to Goldie, a faithful member of the church who doubtless was on hand for the occasion.

Sadly, Goldie – who lived to a very advanced age – is no longer with us and won’t be on hand to hear Let’s Fill Our Hearts With Love sung once more at the church she loved.

But you can be!

4 thoughts on “What do a historic church and a yodelling cowboy have in common?

  1. And if there isn’t a link in your next post to a sound file — or better yet, a video — I am going to be very disappointed 😉

    • Thanks so much for sending this, Sash – I was waiting for that video from CHTV’s Terry Pigden to be posted in order to use it in my report on the anniversary service. (Which I will post tonight if the sluggish internet decides to co-operate.) I’m so delighted that Terry came and filmed the service!

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