Garrison Keillor

Memories of the Phonograph


By Garrison Keillor - Excerpt from "That tide in the affairs of men" January 6, 2017 and Honorary Friend of the Phonograph


Back when I was 16 and an idealist, I decided that our church youth group -- I was president -- should sit and listen to Handel's oratorio "Messiah" and have a spiritual experience so I brought my LP and sat everyone down in a circle and talked about how wonderful it was and set the needle down on the vinyl.

They listened to the opening Sinfonia and "Comfort ye my people" and "Every valley shall be exalted" but the bass recitative did not hold their interest, and whispers of conversation broke out and by "O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion" a full-blown social hour had erupted, laughter even, and I glared at the violators but they were undeterred.

I sat and seethed as the beautiful spiritual experience leaked away. The contralto sang "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd" and it was pearls before swine. People were jabbering about school and cars and hairstyles and what they expected to get for Christmas, all of them like sheep gone astray, and I hated them all and wanted to beat them bloody with a baseball bat.

Now I'm just a tired old liberal and I know very well that you cannot expect people to speak their lines like characters in a play you've imagined in your mind.