Sunday, April 20, 2014



Austin Burke conducts the Moravian Band in 1970

I began playing in the Moravian Easter Sunrise service in 1970...and for 45 consecutive years...rain or shine...cold or warm...enduring lightening and snow...I have proclaimed the Resurrection of Christ Jesus in God's Acre in Old Salem, N.C.  

The Lord is risen indeed!   

While 45 years may sound like a long time, you have to place this length of service in perspective....Burton Snyder has played in the service for 79 years!  Even that impressive length of service needs some perspective as well.  You see the service began 242 years ago!  

Why has it lasted so long?

The best answer is that until the Lord returns, Moravians will proclaim the Resurrection with horn and song.  After all we remember that  as Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem in that first holy week, religiously offended folks implored him:  "Teacher, rebuke your disciples."  He answered: "I tell you if these were silent, the very stones would cry out"  (Luke 19:39-40)  I suppose that if some Easter morn, the Moravian faithful did not gather in God's Acre, that the recumbent white stones adorning those grounds might very well cry out in triumphant song.
Band Four playing antiphonally 

 "Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him"
The real reason Moravians do this every year may lie deep within the traditions of the denomination...if you do something keep on doing it....even if you don't remember why!?....which brings me to a thing we call "morning rounds".

Easter Moon at Home Moravian Church
When the service first started, most Moravians lived within the earshot of Salem town square.  The brethren being practical folks, surmised that if someone did not wake them up on Easter morn, many may very well sleep in and miss the service all together. The solution was simple...just send the brass band out in the streets in the early dawn and they would surely make enough noise to wake everyone up for the service!   

As the community grew, more Moravian congregations opened their doors to the faithful and now there is a Moravian Church in nearly every neighborhood in the this is where the "if you do it twice" thing comes into play....

Waking up Ardmore Easter morn 2014
We arrive at our local church about a nice breakfast...and then go out on buses in our neighborhoods, playing triumphant brass band chorales...
Ardmore Moravian Band on morning rounds at Forsyth Medical Center

loud enough to wake the faithful....anger the unwary....and set dogs to howling...

The AMC Breakfast Gang
My home congregation is Ardmore Moravian Church on Academy Street.  And we arrive around midnight to the smells of a country ham egg breakfast cooked to order by some of the most dedicated cooks who see this simple task as an important way to celebrate Easter each year.  

Re-joining us this year WSPD officer,Eddie Haire...a member of Ardmore Baptist and of course our logistical lady, Terri Kessler...this show does not happen without them! Dewey Chappel is our longest serving bandsman, playing this year for his 67th time.  Caroline Peoples is our newest member, playing this year for the first time. 

We even have our version of "Ben and Jerry". Ben debuted his plastic no less...go figure!

Completing our rounds about 3:30 am, we join with 290 bandsmen for a second ham and egg breakfast.  During this breakfast, bandsmen who have reached 50 years of service are honored my count the are over 40 people having played over 50 years...and a large number of whom have over 70 years of service!

Before breakfast I got to walk around Old Salem in the early dawn and can share the simple elegance of the Easter Morn.

The Easter Moon provided many interesting adornments to the photographs


I can't explain the many lights that appear in the heavens. The moon is to the left of the steeple.  We are no doubt surrounded by a host of "martyrs and saints".

Having played so long in this service, many of my colleagues have ventured into the more immediate presence of our I look to a familiar door I was reminded of one such missing bandsman, Senator Hamilton Horton, who would greet me there with a tuba draped across his diminutive frame....thoughts of others....EC and Erna Denny, Leon Johnston, Charlie Noell, Richard Disher....and my father, Harry Lee Collins, Jr... I miss those folks every Easter.

The service is a simple profession of faith that begins in the Town Square....and then proceeds to God's Acre.  While moving from one location to another, worshipers walk with bands positioned playing chorales antiphonally. Our band is combined with Christ Moravian church, the church my great grandmother was a life long member...many distant cousins renew our bonds as we await our turn to echo the melody of a distant band.  

Note the man seated. His name is Dick Saunders, who for over 50 years directed our antiphonal band. He has been playing for 75 years.  Weakened by a heart condition, he is on oxygen...note he is not looking at the music...he doesn't have to....he knows every tune by heart!

When the worshipers are assembled on God's Acre, the bands assemble in mass...some 300 bandsmen...making up the largest band in the country.  We are directed by Jeff Whitsett (RJR '75) and Nola Reed Knouse.  Bishop Lane Sapp, pastor of Calvary Moravian Church presided over the service.

The crowd sometimes is as large as 10,000. This year I would guess there are over 5,000 in attendance.
The band is comprised of folks of all ages and walks of life...these little girls playing for the first time were sporting some pretty nice Easter bonnets....ya think?

I believe my Redeemer lives!  (Job 19:25)

For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and the tender branch thereof will not cease.  (Job 14:7)

And he that sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.' And he said unto me, 'Write. For these words are true and faithful.' (Rev. 21:5);_ylt=A2KLqID.QFRTCWAA0Lj7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTByYXI3cnIwBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDBGdwb3MDNA--?p=moravian+easter+music&vid=96a32db90bee4bc25ddd9d28079fa4e7&l=10%3A45&

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Visiting Window Falls

at Hanging Rock State Park

Moore's Knob as seen from the Dan River Bridge
We have hiked nearly every trail at Hanging Rock State Park but we have never hiked Indian Creek Trail.  The trail is a 3.7 mile trail from the banks of the Dan River to the Visitor's Center Parking lot at the trail head of the Hanging Rock Trail.

The trail head is pretty easy to find...just take NC 8/89 trough Danbury past the sign for Hanging Rock Park and just before you get to the Dan River bridge, turn left on Flinchum Road.  It is a gravel road that dead ends at the parking lot for the trail/boat landing.

Two trails can be accessed from this site.  A shorter 1.3 mile loop trail, River Bluffs is for the less vigorously inclined.  The Indian Creek Trail is the one we chose as we chose to be vigorous today.  Our destination was not the Visitor's Center Parking lot....been there, done that.   My hiking companion had never seen the Park's famous Window Falls....just 3 miles up hill from the banks of the Dirty Dan River.

The trail generally follows the banks of the Indian Creek.  It is a beautiful forest trail adorned with rhododendrons waiting to bloom.   On many occasions we had the pleasure of fording the creek.  Don't take this hike if you don't want to get your feet wet.

We got to see some of the first blooms of spring.  A yellow bell bush provided a nice foreground for a picture of a small water fall in Indian Creek. 

On several occasions on the trail there were massive rock formations which invited some rock scrambling but the FBWG had already decided to hike a vigorous trail so I decided that I would wait for a less vigorous day and come back to Indian Creek and explore these rocks.  We trudged on and after about the fourth creek ford, the trail began to climb more steeply and we soon found ourselves on cliffs over looking the creek some 100 feet below.

These cliffs are but one mile down the trail and offer some nice benches to rest your dogs and catch a cool breeze coming up from the creek.  From the second bench a cabin on the bluff can be seen in the distance.

Leaving the cliffs the trail turns into a wide fire access road with a long switchback which masks the steepness of the climb.  It was a hot day and we trudged up the ridge.

At 1.65 mile marker the trail comes off the ridge and again takes up the path of Indian Creek which we followed all the way to Window Falls.  But in the meantime we came upon a group of trail angels working on a boardwalk over a soggy section of the trail.  It turns out this is a work crew of Boy Scouts who had thrown in to help on an Eagle Scout project from one of their troop. Ben Rolfes was the Eagle Scout.  Like many who we meet on the trail, they were eager for the Fat Bald White Guy to take their picture and make them famous....I was happy to oblige!  So here's Ben's Crew....thanks for making this trail better!

The trail intersects with Moore's Springs road not far from Ben's work site.  The trail can be accessed from Moore's Spring Road.  If you want a 2.0 mile hike to the river this may be the best way.   Near the Moore's Spring Road trail head, there is an old farm building of some interesting construction.  Not far from this building is a standing chimney, a remnant of a farm house now overgrown with Yellow Bell bushes.

Crossing the road we picked up the trail and again found ourselves fording the creek a few more times.  The trail was deceptively steep, something we did not fully appreciate until we were hiking back out. 

Our dogs were getting tired... our water supply was getting low...and the trail kept getting steeper with no end in sight until we saw a sign telling us that we were but a third of a mile from Window Falls.

We trudged on and soon we heard the unmistakable sound of children's voices....intermingled with the roar of the creek as it plunged down the mountain from Window Falls.  Soon we saw the first sign of freshly clothed families coming down the trail....looking at us a bit strangely no doubt....I am sure we did not smell too good...after all we had been hiking in 80 degree weather trudging up a mountain, wading creeks....whatever!

The first glimpse of the falls came as I pointed out to my hiking companion the rock ridge which looms above Window Falls.  Then we saw for the first time the lower cascades.   I profiled this waterfall in the winter of 2013.   It is really a fun place to visit. My hiking companion promptly shed her shoes and socks and waded into the cold creek water at the base of the lower cascade.

Window Fall is a natural jungle gym.   There must have been 30 people of all ages and dispositions climbing on rocks, wading in the water, taking photographs from all kinds of angles.   Window Falls has an enormous three story rock ridge which hides the upper cascades from view from the trail.   You can see these falls from a "window" in the rock wall.

Upper Cascade of Window Falls


I struck up a conversation with a scoutmaster from Wilson who brings his troop to Hanging Rock State Park every April.  This was a perfect setting for these boys.  They were climbing everywhere.  I caught a picture of one of his troop climbing to get a look through the "window".  From this position I looked up and saw a brave young lady sitting on the edge of the rock ridge, some two stories above everyone else. 

Resting, eating power bars an drinking water seemed to invigorate us and after  thirty minute stay at the falls, we started our trek out.   If you make this hike, recognize there is another small but very interesting falls up the trail from Window Falls.  These falls are called Hidden Falls.  Truthfully if you are hiking to see the falls, you need to park at the visitor's center lot and walk down Indian Creek Trail.  You can see both falls with a hike of no more than a total of a mile.  Hidden Falls is a bit less sociable than Window Falls.  Check out my earlier blog if you are interested in the waterfalls of Hanging Rock Park.

Indian Creek Trail is really a neat trek.  It offers both creek and mountain vistas.  Lots of rock formations, a couple of neat  waterfalls.  We want to return for a shorter trail when the rhodies are blooming.  The Hanging Rock State Park has never disappointed us.  While the view to effort ratio is low for this hike the access is great-9; the trail is well marked and maintained -8; the scenery is a 8.   Overall grade of an 8 for this 6 mile out and back trail.