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Fall family rituals and traditions : Hanging of the Greens and Wassail ( Part 7)

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This Saturday, my ( and many other people's) choirmaster will be honored at a service at Westminster Presbyterian in Crown Heights, North Oklahoma City.

Dr. Donald F. Jensen was an amazingly gifted vocal musician, who served over a variety of environments until health struggles second to Parkinson's made this impossible a few years ago. I am so very glad I got to thank him in writing and in person. I am so very glad he met my daughter.

Even in his illness of a body that randomly froze up on him, the Renaissance Man that he was, quick witted and clever and funny was always present in our conversations.

I know many things about Dr. Donald F. Jensen, but did not know the following.... tucked into his recent obituary. "Jensen served his country during the Korean War. He was stationed at West Point and was the soloist of the United States Military Band, as well as director of communication. As soloist for the United States Military Band, Jensen was frequently heard on broadcasts of the Voice of America as well as numerous broadcasts across the nation." - See more at:

Dr. Donald F. Jensen was the choir director at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City for the entirety of my youth. My Father was the Youth and Young Adult Minister, and my Mom was Dr. Jensen's secretary. My family lived at the church. His family lived at the church. My Mom typed the proof for one of his published works. Raise a Jubilee in Music in Youth.

I started choir at age 4 and remained in choir into my 20's under Dr. Jensen. It was never dull, and never boring. He taught us to read music, check pitches, and harmonize over various genres of music. I had no idea he was the wizard he was until I was older and had other choral directors who were talented, and remarked as to what my prior exposures had been.

Dr. Jensen took us to choral camps, interfacing with other high performance youth choirs and always cutting edge music. I never knew him to be anything but pleasant, motivated and full of ideas.

I will forever recall Dr. Donald F. Jensen's hands cupped on the music stand, with his right shoe cocked on the foot of the stand readying for the next point of direction, while the world class pianist/organist, Fred Haley expertly dealt the accompaniment. hour after hour, year after year. "Don't forget to smile", Dr. Jensen would say non-verbally with hands gracing his cheeks.

Despite so many other people who capitalized on my role under my Father, Dr. Jensen never put me in any positions I did not volunteer in performances, whether reading or singing. He provided us all with music theory, church and theologic history. Always reaching to a higher note, a broader understanding.

When I was about 17, I took a summer job at the St. Luke's UMC Day Care Center as the art and activity coordinator. (The daycare is privately held and not a part of the church itself, though the church holds the center license.) A call to Dr.Donald F. Jensen generously allowed my kids from 4 y/o to 6th grade have various sessions with him for singing, instruments and vocal experimentation. If the later youth group under my direction had not been in Norman, I would have surely made every attempt to import him.

The kids in my age group at St. Luke's were last leap Babyboomers, and our large crowd was loyal and active in musicals and weekly choir year round easily into first years of college, before life took us other places. Dr. Jensen introduced us to,

Under his direction, my brothers and I sang with the Oklahoma City Symphony production of La Boheme, which was an unforgettable experience of intensity and creativity on a scale I had never seen before. I can still recall an adult performer asking if I was one of Jensen's kids... ( being a Winslow kid most of the time I was mystified) the man proceeded to tell me that Jensen's kids were known to be punctual, exacting and followed instruction. ( I think I just smiled, those are not always traits people use to define me personally, but Dr. Jensen was all about all of those things.)

Here are some other areas Dr.Donald F. Jensen influenced in Oklahoma City.

Dr.Donald F. Jensen's family arrived at St. Luke's a year or so before mine did. By the time I was a gradeschooler, things like the British invation were popular amongst young people and, things like the's_Head_Feast became part of the tradition under his care.

The UMC has a tradition of Hanging of the Greens, as do many Christian traditions, which rolls the church calendar to the start of Advent... the watching and waiting for the Christ child.

The UMC tradition specifically states that CHILDREN and YOUTH are to be at the forefront of the organization of this worship. Along with candles, and singing and dancing and in the end lots of talking with friends and long lines for cookies and punch. Dr.Donald F. Jensen always seemingly effortlessly made special roles or new traditions to match the ancient requirements.

Here is a recipe for Wassail Punch that has been a tradition for my family ever since the middle 1960's. I have not a clue where this came from.

I quart hot tea ( my family uses Lipton)

1 quart cranberry juice

1 qt apple juice

3 2" cinnamon sticks

12 whole cloves

1 c sugar

2c Orange juice

3/4 c lemon juice

1 sliced orange, skin on

1 sliced lemon, skin on

In a large stock pot, simmer the ingredients. Serve warm in heat proof cups. Keeps well for about a week.

My family served this instead of hot spiced cider or mulled wine or hot chocolate.

It is great on cold winter nights as a general beverage, but it is exceptional during the Fall and Winter holidays as part of the repertoire of appetizers and goes great with cheeze and crackers, crustini and vegetables and dip....



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