It’s a Saturday evening at a Brookside coffee house. The atmosphere is pretty relaxed. I’m chatting with an old friend as a musical ensemble sets up in the corner to play. A woman in her 80’s sits down in the corner and neatly arranges some sheet music while the younger guys around her set up bass and acoustic guitars. I was starting to wonder where this was going until I heard her warm up. And then I was hooked.
The woman was Gwendolyn Ransom, and her voice was pure magic. Some of the listeners who stuck around and enjoyed her music described her as “the female Louis Armstrong.” Her voice was wavering, yet strong and passionate. She sang easy tunes, old jazz, and hymns. I was in love.
After the show, she expressed to me her gratitude that so many stuck around to listen to her sing. She wasn’t always a singer, she told me. After a heart attack a few years back, there were mornings where she never wanted to get out of bed. After a number of attempts at other new hobbies, she finally came to singing as a last resort.
“Music,” she told me, “saved my life.”
What makes Gwendolyn Ransom’s musical style unique is that her listeners feel free to join. Her regular Sunday morning gigs at The Blue Jackalope are particularly fun, she says, because they often become a small congregation of musicians who all preach the same message: music is good. Music is universal. And sometimes, music will save your soul.
True Tulsa is a weekly project that highlights the people and places that make our city great.
Note: This article originally published October 15, 2010