Donna Ulisse

Singer, Songwriter, Bluegrass Poet

# 6...The family that sings together...

My mother's side of the family were not Italian but just as close. Of course the standing Sunday dinner at my Bonna's house was a must. My mother has five brother,s: Lloyd Jr., Henry, Harold, Kenneth and Doug which meant LOTS of cousins on that side too. I wonder how my Bonna stood all of us running around her house, pulling out stuff, sliding down banisters, sneaking food out of the kitchen, we really did act riotous and LOVED IT! These wonderful Sunday dinners were just a mass of folks fighting for my Bonna's biscuits. (I once told my Bonna that if I ever passed out anywhere she could just wave one of her buttermilk biscuits under my nose to bring me!) The real difference between families (other than the obvious difference in cuisine) was the music! At my Bonna and Pop's house it always came down to singing. There, at the knee of my grandmother I learned how to sing alto (even before I learned how to sing lead) and can still hear all of the Butler voices in this wonderful blend of harmonies, swelling and singing great, old country songs and gospel music. If I close my eyes today I can still hear those voices, I can still smell those biscuits.

When I finally started pecking at the upright piano I moved into the spot of accompanist. I tease the Butler singing group to this day about starting a song without me and having to figure out what key they're singing in.

Along with the immediate family came a slue of great aunts, uncles and second and third cousins that were singers and pickers. My great aunt Macy used to play the lap steel and of course my great uncle Gene "Curly" Butler played guitar and sang like you wouldn't believe. The last decade of his life he sang bluegrass and toured with a group out of Richmond, Virginia. When we had the "BIG" gatherings the music was out of this world good!

I share these memories because they are the direct link to my music career today. The family gathering that includes music is a dying thing that needs desperately to be revived. The closeness felt through joining voices is a great gift to pass on to loved ones. Rick and I are trying to revive it in our family, bringing our guitars to our daughters homes at all occasions and having everyone sing along. The family that sings together...has wonderful memories forever!