Halfway through last night’s singing in Chelsea, we received news that George Seiler, a beloved senior member of the shapenote community, had died. His widow, Jean, asked singers to lead “Wondrous Love” for him, so we did, and then devoted the rest of the session to songs George loved to lead, or ones we chose while thinking of him: among them “All Is Well” (“I soon shall mount the upper skies”) and “Lloyd,” and “Gospel Trumpet,” “Exit” (“It was sort of a joke,” Diane said, “about the New Jersey Turnpike”), “Christian’s Farewell,” and “Hallelujah,” also requested by Jean.
George was just about the kindest, most encouraging person I’ve ever met. Kindness and encouragement are actually pretty standard in Sacred Harp circles, but George somehow backed these with an evident sweetness of soul and practiced them with extra care. I am sad for the news itself (although he had been sick and suffering), but glad it came just when it did and we were able to sing him on his way.
Although even the thought makes me argue with myself: But you don’t believe that! (But George did; and I am tempted to wish, tiptoeing close to some brink.)