Posted by Jack Brymer on 2011-10-03

The musical strains of “Just a Little Talk with Jesus,” “I’ll Fly Away” and other favorites emanated from Samford University’s Reid Chapel Sunday afternoon, Oct. 2, as students, parents and grandparents enjoyed the school’s eighth annual Hymn Sing.

            About 250 people attended the program, described as the benediction to the school’s annual Family Weekend.  They chose 12 hymns to sing and Shades Mountain Air, a musical group led by Vestavia Hills Baptist Church pastor Gary Furr, led in singing eight others. 

            Samford alumna Dianne Norton, longtime organist at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Homewood, accompanied Shades Mountain Air on Reid’s Jane Slaughter Hardenbergh Organ.

            Samford School of the Arts Dean Joseph Hopkins, who directed the program, said he had served in a number of states and churches and that hymn-singing was “the unifying force” in all of them.

            Furr spoke during a brief interlude in the singing, telling of the impact of music on his life. When he was nine years old living in Delaware, a freak weather event had blown the roof off the small church he attended, and the congregation was meeting next door in the pastorium.

            “Like people in exile always do, we sang,” he said, mentioning the hymns “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and “God Has Made Us One.”

            Standing next to him, Furr continued, was a Mr. Hailey, who was visiting that morning and knew every song.  He had a deep, bass voice which Furr demonstrated to the audience.  Also that year, Furr said, he made his profession of faith in Christ and was baptized.

            “So,” he continued, “when you sing, do it with all your might because there might be a 9-year-old boy nearby” listening.

            Furr, an author and song-writer, has been writing songs since he was 16.  He plays the guitar, mandolin and dobro, and has produced two CDs of original songs and a recent CD of hymns entitled “Poplar Tent Memories: Gospel Songs from J Grandfather’s Hymnal.”

            Eric Mathis, who teaches church music and worship leadership at Samford, organized the event and served as piano accompanist.