Thursday, March 14, 2013

Brother Blue, A Tribute

Brother Blue celebration March 14 at Cambridge Library
Cambridge Chronicle
Posted Mar 14, 2013 @ 01:45 PM

Images of Dr. Hugh Morgan Hill, Brother Blue outside the lecture hall of the Cambridge Public Library, March 14, 2013.

Dr. Hugh Morgan Hill, Brother Blue

Hugh and Ruth Hill

Ruth Hill said she was attending library school when Brother Blue proposed over the phone to her. She protested that they needed to get blood tests. He told her "I already got mine." One minister offered to counsel them for a year. The third minister they visited asked if they wanted to get married that night. They said they did.

Melvin McCray

Filmmaker Melvin McCray showed his new film about Brother Blue. McCray explained that he has extensive experience as a video editor. He worked for 29 years at ABC News World News Now. He worked with Peter Jennings, and Dick Schapp. Worked on this film for three years. He said he did not understand Brother Blue when he first met him. He had a simplistic idea of story telling. They had a beginning, a middle and an end. For Blue it began and changed as he told it. He brought in people who entered the room where he was telling the story. He met Blue in New York during the 1970s and 1980s, and described Blue as an unusual person, "a multi faceted unassuming genius." McCray said he is always looking for "inspiration." He said Blue's method of story telling is like John Coltrane's and Miles Davis' music. They do not always stick to a standard routine. They often go off on an unexpected tangent. But they always return to where they began just as Blue did.

One audience member told of a clip on YouTube. Ruth and Blue were standing in Harvard Square. Blue had some bread in his hand feeding the sparrows. He asked, "When I am gone, who will feed the sparrows?" Hill performed in Baltimore, New York City and Atlanta.

After the film audience members asked questions and gave testimonies of their meetings with Brother Blue. One man told of an event at the Porter Square Book Sellers on Mass Avenue. While Blue was telling  a story, a man entered who explained that someone killed his brother and now he wanted revenge. People in the book store became alarmed and were frightened. Blue put his arm around the man and spoke with him for about 15 minutes. Blue told the man that he knew the man's heart was broken but he was scaring others. He walked outside with the man and spoke with him and calmed him down. 

Another man from upstate New York, which he described  as "a long way from Cambridge" described how he met Blue in Copley Square, Boston. Blue announced, "Look at what is going on here. Look here." He said he was embarrassed. 

A woman told about her first encounter with Blue in 1992 in Atlanta at a story telling conference. He called her an entertainer. She was pleased. 

A story teller played the harmonica to accompany his tale of Brother Blue. He said he met Blue when he told stories at the First Church in Cambridge. 

One woman read the poem included in a book about Brother Blue. 

One man told a story about another who asked Blue how to begin telling  stories? Blue's answer was, "Tell a story."

A woman told how Blue used to bless others. She explained that Blue asked her if it was OK with her if he blessed her. She met Blue at Simmons College where she teaches.  A woman at the Boston University School of Education asked her if she would speak about story telling to her class. She agreed and brought Blue along. The BU Professor was "mortified" when she met Blue. She told about seeing Blue atop a mountain of snow in Harvard Square after the blizzard of 1978. He was standing there telling stories barefoot in the snow.

I met Brother Blue at an event at The Episcopal Divinity School which is now part of Lesley University on their Brattle Street campus. I enjoyed his enthusiasm and his focus on goodness and positivity.

He had an easy sense of humor in his presentations. I saw him a second time when he told stories at a Cambridge book store. 

A few years later I met him and wife Ruth at Cambridge Community Television where he did a live show for many years. He also did special features in the main studio. I was a cameraman for at least one of his features.

When I hosted my own live show at CCTV for five years I saw him and Ruth waiting or leaving the live studio before or after his shows.

He was always friendly and we shared some laughs. His enthusiasm was infectious, and his presence was always on.

He was the most present person I met in Cambridge, always focused on people. He was not concerned with prestige, wealth or position.

 He related directly to the person without any filters. He was one of the few older persons in Cambridge that had some idea of the unusual experiences I lived before I met him. Younger people were and are clueless.

 I was disappointed that this event was not publicized before the day of the event. I was at the Library the previous day and saw no mention of the event. It was not listed in the monthly calendar published by the library. I learned of the event the hour it began when I read a notice in an online newspaper.

 I'm glad I had one more opportunity to see Blue's wife Ruth and to learn more about this unusual and wonderful man.

Book about Hugh Morgan Hill

Another book about Brother Blue

Dylan Pritchett, Story Teller

Brother Blue

Brother Blue

Ruth Hill

Brother Blue

Brother Blue

Dr. Hugh Morgan Hill and Ruth Hill

Dr. Hugh Morgan Hill and Ruth Hill

Ruth Hill

Ruth Hill

Brother Blue

Ruth Hill At Kennedy School of Government

Jo Radner

Ruth Hill (left) and Melvin McCray

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