STLT#346, Come, Sing a Song with Me

I’m finding things a little hard this morning (9/11, Irma, the memories this song stirs), so I’ll let Michael Tino introduce today’s post:

“We confront the complex reality that something can be both insipid and profound simultaneously.”

You see, this song by Carolyn McDade can be awfully sticky-sweet, with its rolling 3/4 time often played too fast or too much like a beer barrel polka. And it seems both universally used and universally loathed. Friends Alex Haider-Winnett and Claire Curole were very clear the other day that they find the tune too boring and too cheery, and the whole “rose in the wintertime” thing either not at all special (because in California, where Alex lives, roses are just all over) or just wrong (because in Maine, where Claire lives, any rose you find in wintertime is the product of a dodgy floral industry).

A lot to dislike. For sure.

But I refuse to dismiss this one out of hand. Sorry, folks. More after the lyrics, which I encourage you to read, not sing:

Come, sing a song with me,
come, sing a song with me,
come, sing a song with me,
that I might know your mind.

And I’ll bring you hope
when hope is hard to find,
and I’ll bring a song of love
and a rose in the wintertime.

Come, dream a dream with me,
come, dream a dream with me,
come, dream a dream with me,
that I might know your mind.


Come, walk in rain with me,
come, walk in rain with me,
come, walk in rain with me,
that I might know your mind.


Come, share a rose with me,
come, share a rose with me,
come, share a rose with me,
that I might know your mind.


Here’s why this song has meaning:

On December 17, 1984, my father died. I was barely 20, and made any  number of bad choices in how I dealt with his loss – including not really processing it as well as I maybe could have. But I always remembered how beautiful and meaningful it was that whoever designed the graveside service had us put roses on the casket – Mom, a red rose, and my siblings and I, white roses.

Fast forward to 2006. December 17 fell on a Sunday, so I signed up to bring flowers. I ordered an arrangement that included three white roses and a red rose, in honor of my father. The sermon was, not surprisingly, about hope, and this was the closing hymn.

The impact of which did not for a second occur to me until we started singing – not in a lively style, but in a more contemplative tempo and mode. The way we sang it gave us a little time to think about what we were singing. “I’ll bring a song of love, and a rose in the wintertime.”

Cue waterworks.

Because I started thinking about my father, not in terms of all the things I never got to do with him or know about him   which was my usual form or mourning for him, but about all the things I did get to experience and learn about him. I actually grieved for the man I knew, not that man that I wish I could have known. Singing this song, on that day, with that bouquet 10 feet away from me, allowed me to grieve again in a healthy way – and, although I didn’t know it at the time, helped make mourning my mother’s death a year later a little easier.

I can’t sing this song without thinking about my father, and about that experience.

Insipid as the song might be.

Listen to a Recording

10 responses to “STLT#346, Come, Sing a Song with Me”

  1. I think you underestimate this one, mistaking simplicity for insipidness. It’s pretty and accessible to all ages.

  2. Glad this one works for you. I hate, loathe and despise it with a burning passion. In the early years of our ministry at the church we served for 14 years, before we had a (fabulous!!!) Music Director, the volunteer choir conductor wrote a 4-part harmony for this song, and we sang it All. The. Damn. Time. I grew to hate it because of familiarity… and also I think it’s insipid and kind of stupid. But I don’t want to take anything away from anyone else’s experience of this song. So I’ll just stay over here in the corner hating it.

    1. I hear you on the familiarity thing. Our congregation sings Spirit of Life every week unless there’s a lay service and it’s specifically excluded. I’ve grown to dread that moment and to love the song less.

      What I love about it is its simplicity and its cheerful hopefulness. We sing so many heavy things, and we should. This is light and pretty. We should sing that, too. Less Leonard Cohen, more Van Morrison.

      The other thing I love about it is something Rev. Susan Smith taught us: A set of hand gestures which go with it. It’s easy to teach to kids. On one occasion, I’ve used it in a lay service with kids. First the kids came to the front during Time All Together and we learned the gestures while we sang the song. Then I asked them to return to the congregation and teach the gestures to the adults. I think it worked.

      But I sure wouldn’t want to sing it every week. That way lies madness.

      1. I am curious about those hand gestures! Where could I find them? thank you.

  3. I actually LOVE this hymn. Different strokes for different folks. It’s amazing how different situations can create different reactions to the same stimulus.

  4. […] embarrassingly, my mind went blank. Fortunately, someone else piped up with a song (Come Sing a Song with Me) which went fine, especially when someone jumped up to play it on piano. But I realized I was […]

  5. […] know who will be ministered to by the song we despise, or who will need the comfort offered in a song we find insipid, or will feel their spirits lift by lyrics we don’t quite […]

  6. […] sing this incredible line in Come Sing a Song with Me, which we have acknowledged is simultaneously insipid and profound. And while that one isn’t […]

  7. The children in our church all know this song and love it, and that would probably be enough to make me love it even if I thought it was insipid. But I don’t. Considering all the zipper songs we have that just plug in love/hope/joy/etc., which gets a little . . . derivative, this one has interesting lines. “Come, walk in rain with me” and “Come, share a rose with me” are not cliches.

  8. I’m very late to this party, but I wanted to find share this interesting connection I just discovered.
    About a month before Viola Liuzzo died for her involvement in the Selma Voting Rights campaign, there was a massive snowstorm in her home in Detroit. Somehow, a rose pushed its way through and bloomed. Viola took a picture of it. She wrote on the back of the photograph ‘This is typical of the love in the Liuzzo house.’ So we’re singing this hymn in her honor this weekend.

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