Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oh the Places You'll Go!

You may associate the title of this blog with the popular Dr. Seuss book of that name. But in this case, I’m referring to the places that an author such as myself goes to in order to research historical fiction. On Tuesday, that meant going to the celebration of the United House of Prayer’s 84th convocation in Charlotte, NC. It also meant eating delicious food and listening to trombone bands, vocal choirs, and brass choirs as they played for 200 appreciative fans.

What is my connection to a gospel shout?

For those who are new to this blog, I am writing an historical middle grade novel which takes place in Charlotte in 1950. The main plot is about how a 13-year-old-white girl and a 14-year-old-light-skinned African American girl discover that they are second cousins. In the process of researching the story I have read books, interviewed scores of people, and tried to capture life in Myers Park and Cherry—the neighborhoods in which my main characters lived.

One of the stories I heard was about the annual Daddy Grace parade that wound itself through Brooklyn, a neighborhood torn down in urban renewal during the 1960’s. Thinking that could be an intersecting point for my characters, I’ve researched Daddy Grace and his influence in the African American community. Although the original House of Prayer for all People which he founded in the 1930’s was razed, a new building now draws hundreds of people to its location in North Charlotte. When I found out that the Levine Museum was hosting a concert there, I suspected I would find a detail or two that would find its way into my book.

I was not disappointed.

Since pictures are worth a thousand words, videos must be worth several thousand each. Here is a sampling of what I saw and heard.

Here is Felton Weather, first lead trombonist:


And the rest of the Clouds of Heaven band:

The youngest musicians:

Jaydon Caldwell, age 6, plays along with his Daddy, a trombonist
I listened to the music and wished the trombonists would parade through the auditorium in the same way that 60 years ago, musicians wound their way through Brooklyn. (Click here and then click on Brooklyn for a video from 1959.) I understood how crowds gathered and how people were drawn to Daddy Grace.

 Members of the United House of Prayer Bailey String Praise band and choir.
Photo by T.ORTEGA GAINES, Charlotte Observer
How will attending this event inform my story? I gained three words: pulse, rhythm, and throb. I am richer as a novelist, for having heard, and felt, this Charlotte musical tradition.


Write2ignite said...

I played the trombone in jr and sr high. Those videos brought back memories! But I don't think I ever played as good as they did!

Thank you for sharing this tradition. The girls and I will have to check it out next year. Maybe we can meet up with you for lunch that day!


Unknown said...

kLove this post, Carol -what a great idea!

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks ladies, for your comments. Glad you could enjoy snippets of the concert too. And yes, DOnna, lunch would be fun!

Gretchen Griffith said...

The story behind the story is sometimes as interesting as the story itself. Field trips. Interviews. More than just sitting in the library.
Oh, the places you go, indeed.

elysabeth said...

And the theme of our upcoming SCBWI Carolinas conference next weekend. I must say Carol, your videos are very crisp and very entertaining. Yeah, I think it would have been fun if they did march around the area. Looks like a good time and that you gained a lot of insight into the backstory of your story. Thanks for sharing with us - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of the Junior Geography Dectective Squad, 50-state, mystery, trivia series

Where will the adventure take you next?

Jean said...


Sounds like you had way too much fun doing this research!


Carol Baldwin said...

Elysabeth- the theme of the SCBWi conference must be deep in my subconcious, I hadn't even realized that I was "borrowing" the title from that!
Yes, it was fun to attend and very moving--in every sense of the word!

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