Hur the Handholder and Finding a Piece of My Childhood

10.6.2013 — 1 Comment

We were a “musical” family growing up. I didn’t necessarily love that fact growing up (singing a song about “our family gathering around a table” as we literally gathered around someone else’s table wasn’t my favorite thing in the world). We sang in church, at nursing homes, in the car, and most places in between.

psaltyThere are vague memories of “pieces of songs” that sometimes come to the surface of my already-full brain and these ‘pieces’ can literally drive me crazy for a few days until I can uncover more of the pieces and try and put the mental puzzle together. Some of these “pieces” have recently been put back together in my head since we invested in the Psalty (the singing songbook) collection for our family – reliving some of those albums has been absolutely phenomenal. I’m waiting for some other pieces to be fitted together as I continue to try and amass more and more of my childhood music collection through various sources.

The Internet has proven to be the most-effective source of information in my personal puzzle-completing-quest in the area of trying to relive some of my musical past.

Just recently a single repeating phrase re-entered my brain and I couldn’t remember anything beyond that single phrase: “Hur the Handholder”. I knew there was a song somewhere in my past that included that phrase and I was trying to figure out the tune and anything else lyrically that accompanied it. I was trying desperately.

Typing in the phrase into Google gave me little to no help, unfortunately. My next-step was to email the phrase to my almost all-knowing (memory-wise) sister, Sherilyn, who was actually able to dig a little deeper and find some obscure information at this link. This at least gave me the official title of what was apparently an entire musical that included this musical number. The musical, “Hur the Handholder and Five other Old Testament Musical Stories for Children” was published 5-years before I was born. The link also revealed that the lyrics and stories were written by Sharon Odegaard and the music arranged by Edwin M. Willmington.

Almost as soon as my sister sent me the link I began searching for “Sharon Odegaard”. Turns out a woman by the same name blogs at sharonodegaard.com AND listed her email address on her contact page! What could it hurt, right?

So I e-mailed her on September 2nd:

Sharon –
By chance, are you the Sharon Odegaard who wrote the lyrics and stories for the “Hurt the Handholder” musical?

I found the name “Sharon Odegaard” listed about halfway down on this page – http://www.copyrightencyclopedia.com/hur-the-handholder-and-five-other-old-testament-musical/ today after I emailed my sister and asked her if she could remember any lyrics to the song that had just popped into my brain from our childhood. (all I could remember was “Hur the handholder . . .” and she came up with that link.

If you ARE the same Sharon Odegaard, do you have any idea if there would be a way to find that musical or at least that song that I would LOVE to hear again (and possibly play for my two music/Bible-loving kids?)

Thanks for letting me grasp at straws by emailing you!

I had almost given up hope on hearing back from this stranger who was no-doubt confused by my email until 20-days later on September 22nd, I received this reply:

Hi, Stevan,
Thank you for writing about Hur the Handholder! Yes, I’m the same Sharon Odegaard who wrote the script for that musical. I’m so pleased to know that you remember it and want to share it with your kids.

I would suggest contacting Ed Willmington (the composer), as I don’t have any links to a publisher and don’t have copies of this. It has been a LONG time! But I bet Ed can help you. He is at the Brehm Center’s Fred Bock Worship program. You can contact him with the link in the website:
http://www.brehmcenter.com/initiatives/fredbock/contact/

I hope this works for you! It’s heartwarming to know that this musical boosted your love for God in some small way :)
Blessings to you and your family!

I was very excited to try and contact Ed Willmington, so I contacted him through the Brehm Center contact form that same day after hearing from Sharon.

I received his response the very next day on September 23:

Hello, Stevan

How great to hear from a HUR THE HANDHOLDER fan! They are few in number. Thanks to Sharon for sending you my way. I’m afraid I’m not much help for you either. The rights and product are now in the hands of Alfred Music…after lots of buyouts, etc. They may have some product sitting around somewhere they could offer you. I have a couple of books for my personal library, and a cassette or 2, but nothing I could give you…in fact, I’d be afraid to try playing the tapes at this point. It was a fun work…one of my daughter’s sang on the recording when she was in 3rd grade…and she’s now a mom, and has the music stored on her ipod and plays it for her kids. We were going to do a New Testament sequel when the company was sold and everything changed.

So, sorry I can’t help, and thanks for the note!

Blessings to you, Ed

Obviously, not the response I was hoping for but at least I had the name of the rights-holder! I Googled “Alfred Music” and managed to find and email address of their customer service department and quickly tapped out the following email on September 25:

Greeetings, my name is Stevan Sheets. I am a pastor in Shippensburg, PA and have recently been on a quest to find an obscure piece of music from my childhood. I have done as much digging as I could and found the woman who wrote the script to this childhood musical that I grew up listening to. I was able to contact her and she forwarded me to the musical’s composer, Dr. Edwin Willmington – I was able to make contact with him and he has directed me to Alfred because he says you are the rights-owners of the music after several buy-outs.

The musical is entitled, “Hur the Handholder” and was something I listened to as a child growing up. I’m reaching out to you, hoping that perhaps an old cassette tape may be locked away in a back storage closet somewhere or perhaps somewhere else. I would LOVE to get my hands on this music to relive this childhood memory and fill-in the gaps that time has left me.

Thanks, in advance, for helping me in my quest!

A few days after sending the email, I received a call from an unknown number in California and on the other end was a gentleman named Chaz who told me he was on a personal quest to find this obscure piece of music for me! He had actually located a printed-version of it in an Alfred Music warehouse in New York and it was already in the mail to him there in California. He assured me that when it arrived, he would digitize it and send it to me!

Just a couple days ago, I received an email from Chaz with an attachment:

Hello Stevan,

I would like to let you know that we received the piece into the office and have now converted it to a digital copy. You will find the piece attached in this email.

We are lucky here at Alfred to have an amazing team of individuals dedicated to helping anyone we can enjoy music. Everyone from our archive team in Miami to our wonderful digital print specialist here were glad to make this happen for you.

Thank you and enjoy!

The attachment was this 3-page PDF of the song, “Hur the Handholder”! I actually had it!

I almost-instantly read through the (very short) lyrics and tried to hum along with the printed music as best I could. But I was still hoping (needing!) to hear the actual song, of course.

I reached out on Facebook to my talented friends and family asking if anyone had access to software that they could input my newly-acquired childhood memory and output an actual audio file (that I could sing-along to in the privacy of my own home).

One of our friends, Brynn, came to my rescue and within a day or two and sent me the audio! I uploaded it to my SoundCloud account:

Honestly, it’s slightly anti-climatic – probably because the song was much shorter than I expected and because I still can’t place where we even heard this song originally or why I even knew the part I did remember. The rights-holders have already informed me that they don’t have anything other than this song from the original musical. It’s been fun for the past couple of hours to listen and sing-along to this 57-second song from my childhood.

Maybe since blogging about this experience, my rabbit-trail chasing can serve a greater purpose. If anyone who eventually reads this post happens to have access to anything more from this musical, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

  • Aletha Sheets

    Hi, Dear Grandson! I have just read all of this neat stuff and although I don’t recall ever hearing “Hur, the Handholder”, I do recall a precious rendition of “He’s Still Working On Me” by you in Dayton, Ohio, where you were with us while holding a revival meeting. There’s another special memory of that weekend which I won’t specify on this post. If you want more info, please e-mail me!!!!!!!
    Grandma Sheets