SIGNALS

by Margaret Elinor Parsons Apgar

There went the horn - four fast pips (our hi-ya signal); then four more: "Hurry, hurry! Get a wiggle on-time's a wasting!" The first eight notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony - the family's recognition signal and call for help. The boys and I ran to the door to help bring in the groceries. Larry was back for the weekend.

It's fun to remember the recognition signals throughout the years. The first I remember dates back to my childhood when my father drove a Model T Ford which was started by a crank attached to the front of the car. In the late afternoon, Dad drove twelve miles from Wilkes-Barre to the Poconos, bringing food, mail and anything else that Mother had asked him to bring. We went a mile or so to meet him, and as he approached, the crank jingled at every rough spot on the road and we could hear it a long way off. Then when Dad saw us waiting, he stopped and we jumped on the running boards, hanging tightly to the side - a glorious ride down the hill and home. And no other car had such a jingly crank, so we knew it was Dad coming and no one else.

Larry's family had a whistle which I didn't hear often. But once, when he was visiting his mother, he went across the courtyard of the apartments where she lived, gaily whistling his arrival. She was in her eighties at the time, but she hit the front door of her apartment, almost running, with a horrified expression on her face, and calling softly, "Lawrence, don't whistle - they'll hear you" - meaning the other tenants who were enjoying the whole scene from chairs in the yard.

From the time our boys were very small, they learned the round, "Sumer is icumen in," and the family often sang it on outings. Later on, Larry would sing or whistle it in places where he thought people might know it, and often had strangers join in with him - an open sesame for friendships to develop. "Sleepers, Wake" was another whistle that called forth response, especially from choir members, and when he whistled plainsong, Roman Catholics responded with talk and often joined him with whistle or song.

Any church, large hall or museum called forth a testing of acoustics - first a loud note or two to see if the sound was good, and if it was, usually there followed poetry - Hebrew poetry after his stay at Union - plainsong or, if others were with him a round. We have had many impromptu concerts of this kind. I've known Larry to go into the Cloisters in New York City, stand in one of the colonnades, and start singing plain-song. It always elicits comments, and many times he is joined by others who also loved such music. Sometimes the guard in the museum joins in with delight, sometimes a passerby - but nearly always someone. And often times a concert springs to life, resulting in beauty to the ears of those around, and friendship for the participants.

One concert I remember well was while climbing a mountain in New Hampshire, where we and our oldest son's family stopped to rest, and they sang one of the William Byrd masses - a beautiful sound flowing with the stream we stood beside. There have been many whistled songs announcing Larry's visits to friends -usually something that has grown out of acquaintanceship. Our neighbors in the Poconos are Americans with a strong German background, so he greets them with "0 Tannenbaum." Other friends are Lutherans, and he greets them with "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Some are greeted with portions of the The Messiah or music recently sung in choir. And, of course, Gilbert and Sullivan is used many times - especially "The Gondoliers," his favorite, which always elicits an enthusiastic response, followed with "Do you know this?" or "Do you know that?" - and he usually does.

His recognition and announcement whistles have been an education in themselves. I listen for them every time he goes away, and wonder what the announcement will be as he returns - usually Bach's "My Heart Ever Faithful" which he helped me learn at one time and which we both love.

*****

Lawrence Clarke Apgar passed away on April 12, 1988. Many Pennsylvania music educators will remember him for his musical contributions as choir master, organist, and carillonneur. He held a A.B. from Yale, a B.M.from Curtis, a MA. from Harvard, and a M. S. M. from Union Theological Seminary. He taught at Western College for Women, Oxford, OH and at Earlham College in Richmond, IN. He was carillonneur at the Rainbow Tower in Niagara Falls for two summers and gave many recitals in Pennsylvania and surrounding states. PMEA friends who knew Larry and his music will miss him a great deal.

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