Tigard-area church offers music to lift the soul and heart of Beaverton writer
Meadow Springs Community Church grants woman's wish to hear her songs performed.
Last Sunday was like a dream come true for Bettye Lowery.
The 86-year-old Beaverton resident was attending service at Meadow Springs Community Church near Tigard, when she heard the first few notes of music begin to play.
Lowery recognized the song immediately. After all, it was the first one the poet and songwriter ever wrote.
It was very exhilarating, Lowery said.
Lowery has been writing gospel music and poems for decades, performing them for friends and family. But she had never heard her music performed by professional musicians before, until Sunday.
It made my heart go all the way to heaven and back, Lowery said. That was the first time Id heard anyone else play my music. That was really a big treat for me.
By the time the band reached the second chorus, Lowery said, the congregation had joined in, singing along and clapping their hands.
It sounded better than I had expected, Lowery said. I couldnt believe that Id written that. I came home all filled up and ready to go again.
'A river running through me'
Lowery began writing music in the 1970s, following the death of her father.
Lowery had given him a poem she had written about a week before his death. It was then that he told her she had a gift.
He said, Whatever you do, keep on writing for the Lord, Lowery recalled. After he died, Lowery said she was compelled to keep her promise. Things started moving inside of me, and I started writing songs and poems. The words kept coming so quick I could hardly write them down fast enough.
With no formal musical training, Lowery would write the lyrics and hire a musician to transcribe her singing into sheet music.
It was like a river running through me, Lowery said. I couldnt stop writing. (God) kept giving me new songs and new poems.
Lowery had her songs copyrighted, and worked for years to get them published in the 1980s and 1990s. She said there was little interest at the time.
But I kept on writing, she noted. I didnt want them to just die away.
Although the music industry wasnt interested, Lowery had no problem drawing crowds of her own, said her daughter Laura dAngelo of Aloha.
She would get a crowd to perform just by playing in the neighborhood, she said. Theyd shout, Dont stop, dont stop.
Lowery gave away copies of her songs at swap meets.
If she took 1,000 copies of poems and songs to a swap meet, she would give away 1,000 copies by the end of the day, dAngelo said. She started with 10 copies apiece of her songs, but that didnt cut it. Those were gone in minutes.
Not bad for a woman who taught herself to play piano in the basement of her church, dAngelo said.
She would arrive early and pick out tunes on the keys with one or two fingers at a time, dAngelo said.
If she had a babysitting job, she would pick at their piano, and it wasnt until she was about 58 that my dad finally bought her a piano of her own, dAngelo said. After that, she really took off. She blossomed.
More performances planned
After writing a full catalog of poems and songs, Lowery said they have become a part of her.
Oh boy, I would sing them in my mind over and over, she said. They have been a lifesaver for me. After I lost my mother, I was really bad. But I always just felt rejuvenated every time I wrote a poem or a song.
Lowery admitted she had given up hope of hearing one of her songs performed.
Now blind, Lowery isnt able to write or play the piano, but the music and poetry still come to her.
Sometimes they still float through my head, she said. But I cant grab a pencil and paper like I used to do.
When health problems began to take their toll on Lowery a few months ago, Paula Beaulieu spoke with Jeremy Thom, worship pastor at Meadow Springs Community Church, near Haines Street and Portland Community Colleges Sylvania campus, about recording a copy of some of her songs so she could hear them played by professional musicians.
Thom went one step further, not only sending Beaulieu a copy of himself playing the song, but asked if she could get Lowery from Maryville Nursing Home in Beaverton to church for Sundays service.
I said that if I had to carry her on my back, shed be there. Beaulieu said.
Thom, who has been performing at the church for 11 years, said its nice to do something for Lowery.
Its a very old school song, which these days is very different, Thom said. It was a lot of fun, people responded right away and sang it with me. It was a very tent revival moment.
Thom, who writes and performs modern contemporary worship songs, said it is important to lend a hand to people when you can.
It reminds you of the simple things, he said. The simplest gesture can really lift somebodys spirits. And when you get the whole church together and they see what somebody like Bettye did with writing this song, it lifts their spirits, too.
Thom said he hopes to record a few more of Lowerys songs over the next several weeks.
Its more for her, Thom said. As long as it lifts her spirits thatd be a lot of fun.
Lowery said she's anxious to hear what the rest of the songs sound like.
Now, I cant wait to hear the next song," she said.