All Will Be Well

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Margaret Imrie was the epitome of grace. She’s no longer with us on the planet, yet remains in her music. Her husband was a great friend and supporter of both me and my music back in the days of The Jenny Burton Experience. Together we produced the group and had a blast doing it. Gordon and Margaret (Peggy) lived in a brownstone up on West 74th street and raised 3 totally precocious boys who were all, at one time or another, in my Sunday School class.

I knew about Peggy’s grace as a woman long before I knew of her grace as a vocalist. In fact, her great voice came as a surprise to me years into our relationship because I only knew her as a mother and the breadwinner of the family.

I don’t remember when I first heard her sing – probably at one of the funky musical soirees that the entire Imrie family would put on occasionally with their antique player piano.

But once I heard her sing, I became her champion. She had a nine to five job at the time that was really a morning to midnight job and Gordo was Mr. Mom, so here was a voice that never had a chance to get the exposure that it deserved.

At the time I was the music chair of First Church, Christ Scientist in Manhattan. Since it was located only 3-4 blocks from the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center, the church had a history of most professional and powerhouse classical soloists. One could call it the home of some of the greatest vocalists ever to grace the platforms of that religion.

As music chair I led the selection of these vocalists. Peggy did not have that kind of powerhouse operatic voice. She had great chops, but not the paint-peeling-off-the-ceiling kind of volume that the congregation was used to. But Peggy understood the text and communicated the word of God far beyond the paint peelers. So I pushed for her to be the soloist. Finally, I put in a hidden mic at her soloist position and that took care of all the problems. People would remark, “Well Peggy, how your voice has grown!”

Because of her deep spiritual understanding and ability to communicate, she became an instant favorite in that church and held the position for many years.

She passed tragically, early in life.

Last year I got a call from Gordon announcing that he had over 400 cassette recordings of Peggy’s performances. Now we all know that cassettes were never the best quality of recording. In fact one could call them the low point of fidelity in the past 70 years.

“Couldn’t we somehow make an album with some of these recordings?” Gordon asked.

I answered, “Possible, but not probable … but it might be worth a listen.”

Gordon replied, “Good. Then I’ll send you all the recordings and you can listen and find what you think might work.”

I answered, “No my friend, you will go through them and find the best 30 and then I will pick from them.”

A mammoth job. But Gordo did it. That’s what love can do. Make it all possible.

The rest of the story is the result of additionally my work in restoration and the brilliant mastering work of my dear friend and accomplice, Phil Klum of Philip Klum Mastering, NYC.

This resulted in Peggy’s first CD, Margaret Imrie – Giving Voice, a beautiful CD of church solos.

“All Will Be Well”, the closing song on her album, is one of my favorite hymns of all time. It’s a beautiful ancient Welsh melody that is innately harmonizable. I’m one of those guys in church that loves to sing the harmonies every time we stand up to sing, so I’ve been working on that one now for about 50 years – and the new harmonic ideas keep coming.

Long story short: (or perhaps even longer) I had Phil bring forth Peggy’s voice on the old recording and make it louder than the piano, then orchestrated the stereo mix, and wrote a series of vocal harmonies for Julia that she added to Peggy’s original recording. If Natalie Cole can do it, so can I.

It worked. So the song is now on both albums – Peggy’s and Julia’s.

Peggy lives on and Julia holds her hand.

All Will Be Well
AR HYD Y NOS

Music: Ancient Welsh Melody
Lyrics: Mary Peters

Through the love of God our Saviour
All will be well
Free and changeless is His favor
All must be well
Precious is the Love that healed us
Perfect is the grace that sealed us
Strong the hand stretched forth to shield us
All, all is well
Though we pass through tribulation
All will be well
Ours is such a full salvation
All must be well
Happy still, in God confiding
Fruitful, when in Christ abiding
Holy, through the Spirit’s guiding
All, all is well
We expect a bright tomorrow
All will be well
Faith can sing through days of sorrow
All must be well
While His truth we are applying
And upon His love relying
God is every need supplying
All, all is well

 

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