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THE ASAPH MUSIC LETTER
ENCOURAGING BELIEVERS TO SET AND MAINTAIN A BIBLICAL MUSIC STANDARD
To the chief musician and his choir
Vol. 2--No. 4--July 31, 2003
(Go easy on your eyes. Print this letter for a more enjoyable read.)
INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT REGAL--It was a great pleasure and a distinct privilege to speak with the gracious Robert Regal this past week. Mr. Regal is quite knowledgeable on the subject of sacred music, so we know you will enjoy the following interview.
Should you be interested in contacting Mr. Regal for sacred concerts, conducting classes, choir workshops, voice class, private study, speech class or music lectures, you may reach him at: 6607 Julie Lane, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37421, 423-894-3618.
SB: Mr. Regal, you've been around in the music business for a long time, haven't you?
RR: Well, I started studying when I was 21, in 1951. And I studied four years before I began my professional career.
SB: Before we get into that, tell me about your home, your upbringing.
RR: I was raised in a very, very fine Christian home--both Dad and Mother.
Dad had been saved as a Methodist boy in a brush arbor meeting. Mother was of Quaker stock out of Salem, Ohio, Winona, Damascus, all that area, near Canton, Akron. There were six of us children. I was the second eldest. We had developed a little quartet. We used to sing together as kids, and Mother would chalk. She was a professional artist. Dad was a master musician. He headed the music in the schools of Salem, Ohio.
SB: So, both your parents were very musical?
RR: Well, Mother was more into the art. She was a landscape artist. She had a nice alto but was very timid about it. Dad was more of the musician in the family. Dad taught junior high school. I had him for history and home room and was in his orchestra and chorus.
So I had a tremendous touch with great music through my father, basically. Dad was a violinist, studied in New York with an associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Louis LaProud. Then he started teaching school in 1927 and taught in Ohio for almost thirty years, where I then had him when I was in the seventh and eighth grades.
SB: Were you saved when you were a child?
RR: I was saved when I was nine years old under the ministry of a blind evangelist, Walter Kalembach, who used to be a trumpeter for Harry James years ago, and was saved. He was blinded in a duck hunting accident. It was through his ministry that I and two sisters and a brother came to Christ in 1939 at the First Baptist Church of Salem, Ohio. Our family, because Dad had terrible sinus problems (as did I, and it had bled into my ear, so I had a very, very bad middle-ear mastoid infection most of my young life), moved to Arizona under recommendation that, because it was drier, I would do much better.
So, in 1946, we moved to Tucson, Arizona.
SB: Was the sole purpose of your moving, to help your ears?
RR: Basically, my dad's health and my health. It was during that time that I went through junior high and then to high school where I was viewed by Dr. John Michael, who gave his time to examining every incoming freshman into Tucson High School. It was during that exam that he found this terrible ear I had and about had a fit over it. They wanted to wait until I got a little older before they would do surgery.
In the meantime, I was playing basketball in high school in 1948, and I got an injury, a blow to my head. That led to major surgery, in which I about lost my life, in entering the brain area, because infection, because of the blow, had traveled from my inner ear to the middle ear into the inner ear brain lining. So, I was in the hospital about eight weeks, came out of it and took my senior year over again. So, I didn't graduate from high school until 1950, and I was 20 years old. I was an old guy because I had missed three years, due to this ear problem.
SB: Now that you're graduated from high school, is your ear okay?
RR: It went on until there was no problem, only I don't have all my hearing in that ear, and I still have trouble keeping the Eustachian tube open, which would be true all my life; and as a singer, that's very disturbing because at times I get up to sing, and I'm half deaf. So I have to find a way to pop that tube open. You know how your ears will crack or how you can open them by yawning or chewing gum or whatever? That never worked with mine. I had to force it open with air.
So I used to have a little trick I'd do. As I would get up to sing, I would pull this little trick and clear my ears so I could hear myself.
That haunted me all my singing career and ministry. In fact, I still have it today, and I have to do the same thing. But I've lived with it long enough. I hear myself perhaps a little differently than some singers do. I've had to train myself to do that. I've always sung with that little bit of impediment which hasn't, of course, affected the voice, but it affects my enjoyment of ministry and professional singing.
But we've gone all these years. I went into full-time ministry in 1963. I had gone to work for Bell Telephone in '51, started as a lineman and worked my way up through installation, private installation in homes, and then to what we called PBX, an installation where I worked with special equipment and had secret clearance into Hughes aircraft and Motorola and air research corporations.
That was my income for my family through my years of study. So from 1951 until 1963, I studied private voice and worked for Bell Telephone.
SB: From whom did you take voice lessons?
RR: I took voice from a retired gentleman from St. Petersburg, Russia, who had sung professionally in New York for about forty years--named Nicholas
Vasilieff. I worked with him. He was 65, I think, when I began, so I worked off and on probably around thirteen or fourteen years with him until his passing. Then I started teaching voice, which I've done ever since.
SB: Was this still in Arizona?
RR: This was all in Arizona. We didn't leave Arizona until I resigned from Bell and went into full-time evangelism in 1963. I always had felt that God had something special for me.
SB: Tell me about that decision.
RR: Well, it had been a long time in coming. As I said, I always felt called to some kind of music ministry because of the talents and gifts God had given me. And I felt He gave me a spiritual gift of exhortation and teaching, and I could do that through music, preach the Gospel through music.
I was singing with the Tucson Civic Opera Company and doing a lot of concerts around the nation and finally resigned myself to an opportunity to get into full-time evangelism through evangelist Dr. Ted Roe. They were Ted and Gloria Roe. She was very, very well known back in the fifties, sixties, seventies. They traveled worldwide. It was through his visit to Tucson for a citywide evangelistic crusade that I met Ted. We got together, and God just seemed to open the doors to travel with him for a couple of years.
Then from there I traveled with Dr. Phil Shuler--Phil and Marie Shuler; and Dr. and Mrs. Fred Brown. She was my boss, then, when I started teaching at Tennessee Temple years later. It was through them, then, that I maintained a ministry in evangelism.
Then in '65 I accepted a position at Miller Road Bible Church in Lansing, Michigan, with Dr. James Dodson. That was my first full-time ministry of music, where I had music in the complete church. I had four or five choirs, I had a brass group, I had a traveling ensemble, and then I taught private voice.
SB: Was there enough there to keep you busy?
RR: Yes! It was during that time, 1965, that I discovered I had diabetes, and it was quite traumatic for me. I had always looked on that disease as destructive and thought this would kind of end things; but instead of that, it just added to the whole perspective. It was through this disease that God, I think, has taught me a lot of wonderful lessons. I still live with it, but I still have my eyes and my kidneys and my feet, so I'm a controlled diabetic, thank the Lord.
With the ear, I just have to be careful I don't get it wet. If I get infection in there, I've had it. When they do that surgery, they take a lot of your mastoid bone out, so it never grows back. I have kind of a double tunnel in my one ear--one for the eardrum and the other back into my mastoid
area. So I have to really be careful of that, that I never get it wet.
In any event, when I went into evangelism, and from that time on, I have served five different churches as minister of music. I was with Dr. Harlan Roper at the Scofield Memorial Church in Dallas, Texas, which was a real highlight for me to work with that man of God who replaced Louis Sperry Chafer and C. I. Scofield (of the reference Bible). It was a great church, and Dr. Roper at that time was in his eighties. He was a joy to work with, the most fabulous preacher of the Gospel I have ever served with.
That was a real highlight in my life, and that's where I started doing a lot of private teaching, a lot of concert work on the side. From there, I took a church in Wayne, Michigan; from Wayne, Michigan, First Baptist Church, I accepted a position on the voice faculty at Tennessee Temple University here in Chattanooga. I was there eight years and accepted a position in music at the Marquette Manor Baptist Church in Downers Grove, Illinois, Chicago area, where I served about five years in the music program. We had a quite large, extensive program.
In every church position I've been in, I've always had the permission of the church to travel in concert work; so I kept that alive and kept my own vocal ministry alive.
SB: When you say concert work, what exactly is that?
RR: Church-related concerts, Bible conferences, missionary conferences. I did a lot of artist series programs--that is, art concert programs for Christian colleges and universities. It's like a secular art program. They bring in operatic people. They do concerts. So we call it artist series programs, which I've done for years and years, and I've been in probably all the major Bible colleges and universities doing arts programs. At the same time I may teach voice there or hold seminars and clinics. I still do a lot of those--choir clinics and solo clinics--around the world.
So when I left Marquette Manor in 1987, I went into my own full-time music ministry, which I still have, Regal Music Ministries.
SB: Are you doing anything with Tennessee Temple now?
RR: Yes, I went back and taught the last two years to help them out. They had a big load. So I went back in to Temple and taught private voice at the university level. At the same time I'm teaching, adjunct professor, at McCallie School for Boys of Chattanooga and Girls Preparatory Academy of Chattanooga, where I am the vocal instructor and work with Dr. Lou Cisto and do all the voice preparation.
I have 16 or 18 students there, about 8 at Temple, then I have a studio full here at home. Then I'm writing a book on vocal pedagogy, entitled With the Voice of Singing, that I'm ready to publish.
SB: When will that be published?
RR: I'm hoping before the summer is out. The last chapters are being put on a disc now. Then I send it to an MIT engineer in Boston who is kind of pushing me on it and going to examine it. Then Ambassador Baptist College in Lattimore, North Carolina, Dr. Ron Comfort, is going to publish it. I already have an outlet for it. I wrote it basically for Christian education. It probably won't sell well in the private sector because I have too many references to God in it.
SB: Do you have other books in print right now?
RR: No, that's the only one. I'm not a writer. That's a whole different proposition--to put into a text what you believe. But I've done vocal pedagogy for years, and I've been urged and pushed to write the book, so I finally broke down. So I really started writing it when I first taught at Tennessee Temple.
SB: Do you have tapes or CDs that are available?
RR: Well, I did have. I don't have much of them left anymore. I'm kind of past that. I¹m now 73 years old, but I still perform, and I still try to give the students a good example in performance and ministry. Then, of course, I teach it all the time. Sunday night I'm doing a concert at a local church here and using two of my students.
SB: If we wanted to get a hold of your tapes and CDs, whatever's left, how would we do that?
RR: Well, just let me know. The only thing I have left is called "Songs for the Young in Heart." I have several tapes left of that, the last recording I made, basically for children. The one side has an arrangement of "Zacchaeus." Then on the other side I have a lot of the old popular children's pieces I used to use in concert: "Jonah and the Whale," "The Big Brown Bear," "The Green-Eyed Dragon," things like that.
I do have several albums left--the only one that I orchestrated, called "Thanking Him With Music." I do have several LP albums left of that. But I don't have any tapes left of anything else. I think I made three different editions of everything I have, and I finally sold everything out.
SB: So you're still traveling quite a bit now.
RR: I travel all over the world. I do concerts and work with missionaries. I've been in Japan. I've been in Romania. I've been in Spain. I've been in Ireland. I've just been all over--down into the islands. Where I do work with missionaries, I teach voice, hold classes, do a lot of lecturing on the Christian and his music, called "The Language of Music for Our Times." It's so absorbed with the rock culture. I have lectures on that. There's also a philosophy on that in my book.
SB: When you are traveling all over the world, and especially in the United States, in these churches, how is it that you feel that you can help them the most? What is the greatest need in our churches today?
RR: What I enjoy doing is going in and having the fellow give me the whole service, where I can work with the congregation, where I can have time developing the choir and then feature them in a concert, along with working with the congregation, doing solos, using other gifted church members in that area, in one big festival program. Then I lecture or preach on the Bible and music. Or I hold lectures in the church during the forums or Sunday school hour on a Christian and his music today.
SB: Would you say that today, contrasted with 1963 when you first entered evangelism, Christianity has been "dumbed down," as far as music is concerned?
RR: In my opinion--which I address in my lectures, preaching on it--music<music today Satan uses as a tool that's actually leading the church into apostasy. I don't doubt it a bit. Musical values have so deteriorated and been eroded
away, a lot of it because it's no longer taught in schools, even Christian schools.
When I went to school with my dad in junior high and on down, every student had to go two hours a week to listening class, and you had to be able in the sixth grade to write a melody line, be able to name the notes, and then harmonize
it so that the child grew up with good musical values and could make adequate judgment and discernment on what was good for him and what wasn't.
RR: In my day it was jive and jazz and all that stuff that would come on, but it was never permitted in the church. In fact, when I was in the sixth grade, at least in our Ohio town, you had to be a Christian to teach in the public school. That day has long vanished. In fact, when I was giving concerts up in Hartford, Connecticut, during one of my lectures, parents would raise their hands and say, "Brother Regal, did you know that in our high schools here they dismiss all music--band, chorus, orchestra, theory--anything but rock and swing choirs. That's all that's permitted."
I said, "Well, how do you take that?"
They said, "We've gone to the board. We've organized groups that have gone into the board meetings and protested this problem, and they've refused to do anything about it. They say, 'This is what the kids want, so that's what they get.'"
So, you see, this thing isn't an overnight thing. This had been going on for years. Because of the lack of musical education, teaching young people musical values, they are wide open to anything that's out there.
So I recommend that anybody who comes into any lecture I have, buy a book by Alan Blume entitled The Closing of the American Mind. In that book, if they read the music chapter, it will curl their hair--the statements Alan Blume makes concerning education in our school system. I'm sure he's a Jew. Blume is probably Hebrew. He never mentions the word Bible, but he calls it "the Book." He says, "The absence of the Book in public education has led to the parents' loss of control over their child's moral education." That's quite a statement.
SB: Yes, it is.
RR: He says, "Music is the great indicator. It's the barometer of a society, or a culture." That is absolutely on target. So I kind of preach around things like that.
SB: That's interesting.
RR: Nothing is going to change unless the pastors and music men and parents begin to learn about music and know how to sit down and discern what's good and what isn't good.
SB: That's where you can come in.
RR: That's where I come in. That's all I can do. It's alarming how we're losing the war. We're winning some battles but not all of them.
So I've joined ranks with David Moss, who has written I think one of the finest books on music and the church written today (he's a pastor in Pennsylvania); Stephen Camp, who has left the contemporary musical culture and joined the ranks of the historic, conservative, traditional styling and has gone through all kinds of abuse because of it, because he made his stand against contemporary, CCM, one of the worst things that ever happened to us, but that's where we are.
I, along with men like Don Scovill at Ambassador and Ron Billingsley--I could name you at least five men today: old Dr. Al Smith, who used to be the music man for Zondervan, who's gone now--are a few who are making a stand today.
People are just not doing it. They're just joining the crowd. So a lot of churches I'm never invited back to anymore, because I just don't get into the contemporary scene.
SB: Well, I'm glad you don't.
RR: Well, there's some of it that's good, but you really have to sift it, my boy; you really have to sift it out. That's the verse I leave people with--I<I
Corinthians 2:15: "He that is spiritual judgeth [discerns] all things." He has to judge everything.
When it comes to musical values, so many people don't want to go to any trouble discerning anything. They just say, "That's what I like, so that's what I'm going to do."
SB: That's where we are, right there.
RR: That's where we are.
SB: Mr. Regal, you have some children, do you not?
RR: I have four children. My eldest is the youth pastor down in Jacksonville, Florida. My eldest daughter is married to a pastor in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My youngest daughter's family are with us right now on furlough. They're missionaries in Budapest with ABWE. Then I have a boy who has just left the air force and is involved in computer communications in Fort Worth, Texas. We thank the Lord for our children and their commitment to the Lord Jesus in these days.
SB: How many grandchildren do you have?
RR: We have 13.
SB: Mr. Regal, it has been a pleasure talking with you.
RR: It's a joy to share with you whatever we can in this. I appreciate what you're doing.
SB: We put this in a quarterly newsletter.
RR: It's been a thrill to talk to you.
SB: It's been more of a thrill for me. Thank you for your time.
RR: The Lord bless you.
SB: God bless you.