/, Latest Stories/JESUS BIDS US SHINE (WITH A PURE CLEAR LIGHT) Story by David Oke


David Oke
Grace McKellar House, Geelong, 1979

Mum and Dad were both excellent singers and members of choirs. Both sang solos and their duets together were memorable.

One of their regular charitable acts was to sing to elderly audiences in nursing homes. When Aunty Mabel helped me out in buying my first acoustic guitar back in 1979 Mum and Dad asked if I could come along to Grace McKellar and accompany a few songs. I hesitantly agreed and learnt some songs.

Mum and Dad’s usual accompanist was a man who played piano. He attached an ancient keyboard wired to a valve amplifier to the front of the piano to make the melody more prominent. It had a heavy vibrato and Mum called it ‘The Blowfly’.

Part of the repertoire was some old Christian Sunday School songs. One from the hymnal was Jesus Bids Us Shine, first published in 1868.

The room at Grace McKellar was overheated and had a strong stench of wetting accidents, but the residents were dutifully lined up in rows for their afternoon entertainment. Some were lucid and knew what was going on. A couple of ladies kept repeating the same phrases over and over – “Just had lunch” and ”Gonna sit in this chair”.

A number of residents were silent. They had vacant stares and looked lost. Being new to this kind of audience was confronting but it gave me a further appreciation of the good work my parents did.

I strummed a chord introduction and Mum and Dad launched into the lyrics of the first verse:

Jesus bids us shine with a clear pure light
Like a little candle burning in the night
In this world of darkness,
So we must shine
You in your small corner and I in mine

 I could not believe what happened next. It was as if the pause button was switched to play. All of a sudden some of the residents with the fixed vacant stares had ‘resurfaced’. Some were mouthing the words and joining in. For a brief moment there was a reprieve in their condition. Something deeply familiar had come back to visit. Experts say that music ‘fires up’ the brain.

I was a teenager and it was first awakening as to how powerful and deep set the musical experience is. I witnessed how song memory can be locked away, or partitioned, in a brain that is ravaged by deterioration and confusion. I saw first hand how music briefly rekindles some clarity and cohesion – similar to the vision of a clear pure light in stark darkness.


Nowadays, iPods help Alzheimer patients to connect with their favorite music and re-discover themselves, as in the case of Henry in this example from Music and Memory.

David is a Melbourne musician, music teacher and primary school teacher. His debut Stereo Story was about playing Great Balls of Fire at Sun Studio in Memphis. He has assisted in the organisation, and leading of gospel music workshops and Sunday gospel celebrations at the Anglesea Music Festivals, and is a member of The Seddon Jammers. His son Dan is the creative force of the band Jarrow.

By |2018-04-11T14:43:54+00:00April 21st, 2018|Christian music, Latest Stories|6 Comments


  1. Stephen Andrew April 21, 2018 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    Great story, David. Sometimes all is not as it first appears.

  2. Marianne April 22, 2018 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    Great story Dave♥️

  3. David Oke April 22, 2018 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    Thanks Stephen. You are absolutely right. Today I was telling someone else about this stereo story. The person I was speaking with currently sings as entertainment in nursing homes and other venues. He too has had the exact same experience where some residents, who are silent and still, start mouthing the words and clapping along to familiar songs of their past. Another appropriate idiom I could use here is ‘looks can be deceiving’.

  4. David Oke April 23, 2018 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Thanks Marianne. I don’t know what it was that made me think of that old song recently but I immediately made the association with my experience, with mum and dad, all those years ago at Grace McKellar. The power of musical memory is stunning when you look at the YouTube link near the end of my yarn. I think it is amazing that Henry, who can hardly talk, can do Cab Calloway ‘scat’ singing after listening to some of his favorite tunes from yesteryear.

  5. Joren April 24, 2018 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Great story David xx

  6. David Oke April 24, 2018 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    Thanks Joren.Considering the gist of what I wrote about, I am glad that I put effort and significant planning into my role as a primary school music teacher. I well know that the musical experiences I provide, particularly in relation to song choice, will remain with my students for a very very long time.

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