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To touch a heart

Music soothes when mere words do not suffice

NIVERVILLE, MB—When her family life came unraveled, six-year-old Dorothy Hiebert clung to music amid the upheaval. Now, more than six decades later, she still shares the talent that made such a difference in her own life.

Dorothy cherishes early memories of making music with her parents. Both played the piano, and her mother would sing or sometimes play the guitar. Dorothy would stand beside the piano and sing along.

“They would pull out the old gramophone and dance and dance…too bad they had to divorce,” she finishes sadly. While a younger sister went to live with their mother, Dorothy and her brother went with her father. But it was not to be.

“I was bumped around from place to place for about two years,” says Dorothy. “Dad just didn’t know what to do with us.”

Devastated and unable to care for his young children, her father appealed to family members for help. Her brother went to live with relatives in Saskatchewan, but it was a struggle to find a place for little Dorothy.

Finally her parents issued an ultimatum. “If you don’t take her, we’ll have to take her to an orphanage.” Eventually an aunt and uncle took her in.

At first, Dorothy, pain-filled and hurting, did not like her aunt, but the feelings would change. “I couldn’t have had a nicer auntie,” she says now of the woman who taught her to cook and sew, and who encouraged Dorothy’s musical interests. The couple also provided consistent, loving, godly training.

Eventually Dorothy’s father moved to Edmonton, leaving his piano behind for his little girl. He was very poor, yet he sent money every month for his daughter’s music lessons. She completed Grade 8 piano and joined choirs and small musical groups at Gretna’s Mennonite Collegiate Institute.

She also learned to yodel.

She chuckles to think how she entertained others while driving the tractor as a 15-year old. “I was my [adopted] dad’s “right hand man, combining and plowing,” she says. Years later, friends who lived across the railway tracks from the farm revealed they’d enjoyed listening to Dorothy learn to yodel. “You can’t yodel with a sad heart!” she exclaims.

Eventually Dorothy graduated and went on to teach public school for three years and piano for 33 years.

These days, music means playing and singing (sometimes with her husband Peter, who is also musical) and for seniors. This audience repeatedly asked Dorothy for a recording. Reluctant at first, she relented because so many encouraged her.

She asked her son, Carlin, who owns a studio, for advice. He did not hesitate. Still, “the process took nearly three years. “For six months, I lost my voice. There were technical glitches. We didn’t always agree—a woman in her mid-60s and a young professional!” she says.

Yet, when she heard the finished CD, Dorothy says she told her son, “Thank you for being so determined that I do it right!” The Lord is My Shepherd released in 2012.

Because music is an expression of Dorothy’s faith, evident in her compositions, playing and singing, she put careful consideration into the songs on the album.

“I didn’t just go sing any songs…I asked God to help me know which ones to include. I always hope the songs will touch a heart.

“I became a Christian when I was six years old; I’ve never doubted my faith,” she says. “There isn’t a day I don’t pray for each of my children. To know Jesus, that is the most important!”

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About the author


ChristianWeek Columnist

Pat Gerbrandt is a Manitoba writer who delights to learn how God is working in and through His children, and enjoys sharing these accounts. Do you know a senior with an amazing story? Let us know! E-mail krempel@christianweek.org or call 1-800-263-6695.