The Church Sweet Home playlist

Before we came along, I’d wager the most common music you’d hear inside the religious structure that became our home was “Amazing Grace,” “Silent Night, Holy Night,” Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” and “Jesus Loves Me.”

And then we bought the former Methodist church, and the soundtrack changed. Instead of organs and choirs, we summoned a good drum track and guitar.

If my new memoir, “Church Sweet Home” had a playlist, this would be it:

  • “Anticipation” by Carly Simon: This was our theme as we waited for the closing date.
  • “What’s the Buzz” from the musical Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar: This was music for the village, as residents wondered what we were up to inside.
  • “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder: A little funk for demolition.
  • “Whip It” by Devo: Crack that whip, boys!
  • “Bat Out of Hell” by Meat Loaf: We have a belfry. And we had a bat.
  • “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon: This melodious bit of music was the leitmotif for our master carpenter. His presence recurred during tiling, construction, garage building and belfry repair. One of his favorites for background music comes next.
  • “If You Want to Get to Heaven” by The Ozark Mountain Daredevils: You got to raise a little hell.
  • “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin: This is the music for installing a spiral stairway.
  • “Take Me to the Church” by Hozier: The lyrics of this song aren’t quite right, but the title sure is.
  • “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones: Tyler played this one at top volume during one early par-tay after we moved in. It was awesome!
  • “Big Time” by Peter Gabriel: Tyler says this song would come up on the playlist for every book I write, I like it so much. It is the perfect tune for him, my Big Sexy who constructed our big house for our big dreams.

The final song in the playlist would have to be Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” with full symphony and choir. Between Tyler’s massive sound system and the naturally fantastic acoustics of the church sanctuary, this piece will move an atheist to his knees. And its final “Hallelujahs” are the crowning glory of the completed renovation.

CSH Book Front Cover Only# # #

My memoir Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul comes out Tuesday. Preorder the ebook at Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and Kobo.



Big time music system

I learned a few things about my husband of ten years as we renovated our 127-year-old church into a home. I knew he had a lot of tools, but I didn’t know he was so skilled at using them—hammers, sanders, saws, paint sprayers. I didn’t know he knew how to run an excavator. I didn’t know his good taste extended to interior design.

And I didn’t know he was an audiophile.

He kept this fact mostly secret throughout construction. Maybe it wasn’t purposeful. Maybe the language he spoke just went in one ear and out the other (did you see what I was doing there with that idiom?). I didn’t know the difference between a tweeter and a woofer let alone between a Klipsch and a Miller & Kreisel.

Before we even built the cabinetry for the back wall of the great room, we had enormous speakers lining the floor. He struck a deal with a friend on some of them (of course he did), and he collected a few more from a relative’s collection. Then, some weeks later, he found online a woofer, or maybe it was a subwoofer, with all the bells and whistles. He already owned the receiver. Or at least I think we did. At a certain point, I quit asking questions about what had been squirreled away and what was being newly acquired. But he wanted me to mention his receiver has “4K ultra HD network AV surround” with 1,200 watts of something-or-other 11.2. I literally have no idea what that means. But an audiophile does.

That’s one of the reasons we “needed” so much cabinetry in the great room. It was necessary to accommodate our hobbies. One of my hobbies is, or at least was, scrapbooking, and I have at least 20 finished 12-by-12 scrapbooks that need to be stored somewhere. And one of Tyler’s hobbies is listening to music. To do that right, at least in his mind, he needed a lot of speakers.

hidden speakers
See all those pink outlines? Those are speakers. Just the ones in the front of the room.

In the end, Tyler connected 25 speakers (including subwoofers, woofers, midrange, tweeters, horn tweeters and piezo tweeters) to his system using 700 feet of speaker wire. Speaker wire was like nails for a while there. Seemed like we were always buying another box of it.

Then, as he connected various components, there would be the inevitable tuning. He would play a few lines of some song at top volume over and over again, adjusting the EQ, tone controls, balance and fade on the big screen. Because, of course, the whole system has airplay, ethernet, wifi and bluetooth connection capability. Now, all he has to do is pull out his phone and he has access to just about any piece of music on Amazon Prime, Spotify and iTunes.

Thanks to digital music, there is not a single record, 8-track tape, cassette or CD in any one of those cupboards. When you have a system like ours, you appreciate when someone “remasters” the digital version of a golden oldie.

Oh, do I appreciate it.

For all the lack of attention I paid to Tyler’s machinations regarding his stereo system, listening to music in our chome now is like no experience short of a live concert in a concert hall.

It’s grand. A rock tune is one thing, but classical music, which Tyler plays nearly every Sunday morning, practically brings me to tears. It’s amazing.

We’ve watched the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” in our living room, not once but twice, it was so good. Queen, in concert. Freddie Mercury was singing right to me.

We’ve also landed on a great parlor game. The other night, we entertained my mother-in-law and her brother (Tyler’s uncle). For an hour, Tyler the DJ had us making song requests, which he programmed into the mix. We enjoyed hits from Mötley Crüe, Blondie, Dave Brubeck, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils and Neil Diamond, to name a few. Everything genre from 1950 to 2019,  Abba to Zhou. If I didn’t like someone’s choice, I knew my selection would be coming right up. What a show.

One of my requests was Peter Gabriel’s Big Time. I think there couldn’t be a better tune for our venue.

And I will pray to a big god
As I kneel in the big church.

Big time
I’m on my way—I’m making it.
Big time. Big time.
I’ve got to make it show, yeah.
Big time. Big time.
So much larger than life.

~ from Big Time, lyrics by Peter Gabriel

She’s a mean, mean machine

Our story so far: We moved into the old Methodist church we had renovated into our home, slowly unpacked our belongings, and Tyler was building an attached garage.

# # #

The day after the garage trusses were set, it rained. And the day after that. And the day after that.

Rather than frustrating Tyler, it pleased him. For a change, he was happy to take a break from sawing wood. So he could saw some wood. On the sectional in front of his enormous TV. Zzzz. He also spent some of his time indoors setting up the great room sound system and threading speaker wires through the basement.

He tested out his sound system when a couple of his musically inclined friends from way back and their wives paid us a visit. While we were lingering around the dining room table (we might have been basking in the glow provided by some excellent tequila), Tyler turned up The Rolling Stones to top volume.

“If you start me up, I’ll never stop.”

The music sounded pretty impressive. This was a former church sanctuary, after all, designed for big sound.

“You make a grown man cry.”

Tyler laughed. Our friends laughed. I laughed, too. A get-together like this was exactly why we’d purchased the church.

“Kick on the starter, give it all you got.”

We couldn’t hear our laughter over the music. This was impressive inside. But I was curious about how it sounded outside. What would the neighbors think?

I left the table, making a path to the powder room. Only I ducked out the back door instead and walked around the church to the front to hear how the music sounded outside.

Sounded just fine. I could hear Mick Jagger. He could never stop by now. But even a passersby on the sidewalk wouldn’t be likely to complain. Unless they complained they weren’t invited.

# # #

Tomorrow: A view of the big top. See it here.

Ring my bell, ding-dong-ding

Our story so far: After moving into the old Methodist church we had converted into a home, we mounted repairs to the belfry with the intention of ringing the bell, which had sat silent for some time because parts of the tower were rotted.

# # #

wrapped pilings
That’s a wrap.

The following day, You-Can-Call-Me-Al and Reroofer climbed back up into the belfry to wrap the now heftier pilings in waterproof net. And as long as he was up there, You-Can-Call-Me-Al decided to test the heft by ringing the bell.

If you can’t find it on Amazon or eBay, you don’t need it.

Reroofer rang the bell when he was repairing the roof beneath it the previous fall, but he did it carefully and by hitting the stationary bell. Now, You-Can-Call-Me-Al stood on the ledge of the bell tower, grabbed the circular crank and pulled (this is the mechanism to which a rope is usually tied—we removed the worn-out old rope intending to replace it with a new one of impressive diameter). The bell swung, and the clapper made contact.

Tyler and I stood on the ground, watching to see if the tower swayed. Standing on the tower and confident of his work, You-Can-Call-Me-Al assured us it was solid.

He rang the bell wildly.

The tower stood immovable.

Our bell sounded full and melodious. It was lovely. I watched, smiling widely.

A passersby on a nearby sidewalk asked me if we planned to ring the bell at three o’clock in the morning. Maybe she was worried.

“No,” I said. “But maybe at midnight on New Year’s Eve.”

“That would be OK,” she said.

OK? That would be awesome!

You-Can-Call-Me-Al tested our bell a few more times. No police showed up, so the neighbors must have been either happy to hear it or willing to bear it.

# # #

Tomorrow: You-Can-Call-Me-Al shouldn’t have all the fun. Read about our first bell-ringing here.