Voices Touched by St. Cecilia
One Oregon family harmonizes for the glory of God.
When it comes to musical talents, the Hanson family has been blessed with quite a few. For close to 10 years, the Elmira, Ore., family of seven children has entertained audiences with their angelic harmonies, cowboy yodeling and good old-fashioned tunes from the great American songbook.
According to Leslie and Wayne Hanson, music was a family value that was instilled from the start.
“When I would tuck them into bed at night, I would sing one part to one and another part to another, and they had already heard four-part harmonies from us having been in the church choir,” Wayne recalls. “So each of them could carry their own part singing next to somebody by the age of 3.”
In the summer of 1999, the Hanson youngsters learned to yodel thanks to an instructional tape that was given to them by a relative. A year later, after seeing an entry form for the talent show at the Lane County (Ore.) Fair, Leslie entered Daniel, 8, and Theresa, 10, to perform as a yodeling duet.
Not only did the duo win that first year — they made it all the way to the finals at the state fair competition.
That was the start of a several-year run where Leslie says her singing kids were on a winning streak.
“Our kids won everything Lane County had to offer,” Leslie says with a smile.
It was also during this time that Wayne heard angelic singing coming from the family kitchen. The Hanson girls Christa, Lisa and Theresa were working on some music for church while washing the dishes.
“I just started crying because it sounded so beautiful with them singing together,” he recalls. “I came in and said, ‘You girls have a special sound. You need to keep doing this and sing as a group.’”
With the help of David Philips, their choir director at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Eugene and creator of Gentle Spirit Music (GentleSpiritMusic.com), the girls did just that. Philips gave the singing trio the name Seraphim.
“I approached Wayne with the idea of doing an album of some traditional Catholic hymns and featuring the three girls singing, and I wanted to give them a name that was recognizable” says Philips. “We batted around some names, and we came up with the name Seraphim because they sing like angels.”
Seraphim’s first CD was released in the fall of 2003. “O God of Loveliness” became a big hit in Christian and Catholic bookstores across the nation. Phillips has gone on to produce two more CDs with Seraphim.
He has been quite impressed by the musical ability of not only the three Hanson girls, but also with the talents of the whole family.
“They are just good people,” Phillips says. “Their musical abilities are pretty pronounced; because they come from the same family, the timbre of their voices is pretty nice.”
Winning Isn’t Everything
Wayne and Leslie make it clear to their children that whether they are singing Christmas carols in December or competing at a gospel or harmony competition in July, their mission is to honor God with their talent.
“I give them the ‘Mom soapbox talk’ on the way to our performances or the competitions,” says Leslie. “I tell them: ‘We don’t care if you win. We just want you to honor God and honor your family and your audience by dressing up modestly and femininely.’”
The family’s formal outfits for the guys include long-tail tuxedos, and the girls’ clothes have some ruffles and lace on them.
“That tells your audience that they are worth dressing up for,” says Leslie.
According to Wayne, this family practice has changed a few hearts along the way. He notes the numerous parents who comment to him that they wished their daughters would dress like theirs.
“I think it means a lot to see a family working together and to see kids with bright eyes and who are happy,” Leslie says.
All the kids play in some varying degree a number of instruments: piano, guitar, clarinet, accordion, fiddle and mandolin. Leslie says that has been the natural consequence of two things: The family got rid of their television close to 30 years ago and began home schooling.
“We are together enough that we can do the music,” she says.
The family is excited about its new CD of classic Western tunes entitled “My Best to You,” which was released this past summer. According to Wayne, the 12-song collection hopes to keep alive the good old classics of years past.
The Hansons show no signs of slowing down. According to Dad, this year the family will perform 45 to 50 shows, mainly in the Eugene area. However, the family is no stranger to travel. Among other places, they have sung near Birmingham, Ala., at Eternal Word Television Network, as well the McDonald’s Gospelfest in Seattle and New York City.
In looking back and reflecting on all that they have accomplished as a singing crew, Wayne says it’s their kids’ perseverance and the gift of themselves that he is most proud of.
“I am proud of the fact that our children are willing to join us as a family and sing together and praise God and offer up their voices for his glory,” he says. “That just touches my heart like nothing else.”
Eddie O’Neill writes from
Green Bay, Wisconsin.
- November 1-7, 2009