Margaret Day, the granddaughter of F.Y. Cory and her husband Kenneth embarked on an incredible life adventure with their family starting in the late 50’s. Their relationship was forged in the fire of God’s love by the joining of 2 very different people who committed to one another to live life and raise a family in harmony with His plan.
Our family consisted of 5 children, 2 girls (Debbie and Beth) bookending the 3 brothers (David, Daniel and John).
Reflecting back on our experiences growing up, it now seems that just about everything in our lives did not conform to the societal norms. We wore hand-sewn clothes, rode in used cars that had been bought from someone Dad knew (never a new car), ate home-made foods (rarely went out to eat), drove 30 miles to church, and were encouraged to think and dream expansively.
Our parents wanted to do the best job they could in raising our family, and committed to sending all 5 of us to a Christian school in Mt. Vernon through 8th grade even though it was a big sacrifice. Mom and Dad did not want our brains to turn to mush – so no TV was allowed in our house for many years. Without the numbing influence of TV and secular radio, mom and dad intended for us to be creative and self-sufficient. I don’t remember any idea being squashed, or dream not having being attempted – we built tree forts, tanned a goat hide in the basement on the pool table (unsuccessfully…), made a wind tunnel and chickens were raised in the bathroom for science projects, Mom sewed a Daniel Boone outfit for Daniel out of a deer hide. By the way, this is just scratching the surface.
I didn’t realize how much Fanny Cory influenced my mom until sitting down with her earlier this year to ask her about her memories of her grandma and what she was like. Mom’s eyes lit up as she told me about the summers she and her siblings spent at the Canyon Ferry Ranch in Montana with their grandma and grandpa, and then the times spent at ”Meetsy’s” (Fanny’s nickname) Montana Beach cabin on Camano Island later in life.
I had made the commitment to my cousin Jason that I would write a tribute song to honor my great-grandma Meetsy to be sung by The Day Brothers at the celebration in honor of her 140th birthday. This song became “Thanks for Fanny Cory”
Music has played such an integral part of life in the Day family that it is impossible to even picture our life without music. Dad was an incredible singer, and had an infectious enthusiasm that drew people to sing along with him – whether leading congregational worship at church, playing his guitar or gathering around the piano to sing with the family. Mom loved music, and encouraged our musical adventures, but she was disappointed in her own musical contribution. We all took piano lessons until we could play a hymn of our own choosing, and most of us played musical instruments in school. All 5 of us can sing, and we can harmonize intuitively which is how our Dad sang – he could pick out various parts, and could sing with any of us, mixing in a harmony part that fit in to fill out the harmonious sound when singing with him. One of our special traditions in the Day family is to sing this grace acapella to the tune of the Doxology: Be present at our table, Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. These mercies bless and grant that we may strengthened for Thy service be. Amen.
We sang 4-part harmony to hymns in church or for special occasions as a family, but the 3 Day Brothers didn’t sing together until much later in life. I was 4 years older than Daniel, and while growing up didn’t work very hard to do things with the “little kids” (Daniel, John and Beth) and moved out of the house the day I turned 18, and was married to Karen by the age of 19! Daniel and John were only 1 ½ years apart and did many things together, and Daniel and John started singing and writing songs in high school and college. Our journey singing together as the Day Brothers started a decade ago when the 3 of us sang “Day by Day” at the church in Bellevue that John pastored. One of his parishioners heard us sing, and suggested that our strong vocal presence and harmony would lend itself to singing bluegrass.
At that time, I didn’t know what bluegrass was, and didn’t particularly think anything of that suggestion – but Daniel and John took that ball and ran with it. John started a bluegrass gospel jam in the basement with the help of his parishioner Mike who made that first suggestion. Daniel would drive down from Stanwood to go to that jam once per month and it was a howling success. Our dad had suffered a severe stroke that had silenced his voice – he would have loved this bluegrass adventure, but never got to participate with us in this endeavor. My melancholy perspective from watching my dad suffer and the death of my father-in-law changed my perspective on music. Prior to this, I was a strong advocate of contemporary music in the church, and was a worship leader with great enthusiasm for the role of music and worship in the church. But I found that as time went on, for the first time in my life, the response of my heart responding to music and worship had stopped. I would just sit in church – and be silent! That had never happened before. Dan and John invited me to drive up to Bellevue to their bluegrass gospel jam, and let me come bringing an electronic autoharp that I had bought to play something (at that time, I didn’t play any acoustic stringed instrument). I will never forget the experience of sitting at that jam, and as we sang songs like “Pass Me Not” or “In the Garden” tears would well up in my eyes, and my heart would leap once again as I thought about this amazing God who sent his Son to die for a lost world! My heart wasn’t dead after all it just needed a different perspective! For me, my journey to bluegrass was really a journey back to God.
The Day Brothers really jelled as we sang to comfort our brother John’s heart as he went through a very difficult season in his personal life. We found that as we sang together, time stopped, and we were transported to a very special realm where God was able to comfort and console. We now look for opportunities to share songs with others that move our hearts, and our hope is that by sharing these songs, it will touch the souls of our listeners. While John has been writing songs for years, Daniel was the next to add his voice in creating songs, and I have now dipped my toe with great trepidation into that adventure more recently. We love giving voice to experiences that have impacted our lives – our songs can be tender and heart-felt, tongue-in-cheek or even ironic.
Our great-grandma’s creative energy has flown through us in other ways. Daniel and I are now building instruments – this part of the journey started when Daniel moved to Oklahoma and found a luthier who taught a class on guitar building. I was able to find a similar program in Portland, and each of us now have built 6 or 7 instruments. It’s almost like we want to give new life and purpose to the wood from the trees, and we are especially interested in the quality and character of the instrument’s tone, while featuring the beauty of the wood.
One of the things that struck me while reflecting on Meetsy was that as she observed the world, she was able to see nuances of expression that she could somehow convey through her drawings. As I look at her painting “The end of a perfect day”, in my mind I can actually picture many times our family returned from some exhausting adventure or quest, and feel that tired satisfaction of having provided an experience for my family that they will never forget. That picture is the one that I was imagining while writing the chorus for “Thanks for Fanny Cory”. The first verse was taken from my conversation from my mother as she would share about how fun-loving and engaging that Meetsy was. She must have had an incredible imagination – and just maybe a part of her is influencing me since I am enjoying creating instruments that are unique and unlike any other instrument. She saw animals that existed, and imagined others that she saw with her mind’s eye – and brought us into that whimsical world. This is what I was alluding to in the 2nd verse of the song. My hope is that this song will speak to your heart, and like my great grandmother Fanny Cory, you will see the best in people, and that your curiosity about life will drive you on an unending, incredible quest for adventure.