The Phillips Sisters (L-R Vickie, Dawn, and Valerie) will sing again at Hondo's on Wed Oct 22, to help raise funds for transplant surgery for Valerie's daughter Sierra. Photo by Phil Houseal
An account has been set up in the name of Sierra's Phenomenal Hope, Hill Country State Bank, 710 South Adams, FredericksburgTX 78624, 830-997-5544.
Phillips Sisters: Heavenly Harmonies
by Phil Houseal
On the banks of the Blanco River in 1980, I heard angels sing.
It was during an outing with the family of Les and June Phillips. While dating their daughter, I heard reference to the sisters being able to sing. But I had met many who inaccurately made that claim.
After lunch, I reclined on a picnic table bench for a nap. The sun warmed my skin, the river flowed, the breeze tickled.
As I drifted off, twin sisters Vickie and Valerie and younger sister Dawn gathered around me and began to sing. Deep in my dreams dawned a glorious sound. Clear melodies. Sinuous harmonies. A siren song roused me from slumber. I squinted my eyes; three faces were wreathed in light from the afternoon sun. This must be heaven, I thought, and they were angels.
Turns out the Phillips Sisters really could sing.
And they did sing at churches, clubs, and events. For many years they were featured on the gospel stage at the Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio.
The Phillips Sisters sound is "sister harmony," that natural quality that blends like they were born to it, honed over years of singing in the Baptist church. I've tried analyzing it, but I can't. They break all the rules, taking turns singing high and low, sometimes switching parts in mid-phrase. Someone once had them sing back up on a studio recording. The producer carefully arranged vocal parts. The girls ignored the music. They did what they do best - sang the harmonies the way that felt right. It was exactly right.
My favorite thing is to watch the audience as the Phillips Sisters sing. When the girls do their opening piece a cappella, small talk stops. Forks pause, dominos drop, waiters wait. Just as I did on the riverbank, listeners find their own revelation.
I also love to watch the Phillips Sisters, because something magical happens.
"To me, it is euphoric," Vickie said. "Something comes over me that I can't describe. It is an inner peace, someplace I wish I could be all the time."
Valerie feels it. "It's the only time I am at peace and where I am not thinking about something else," she said. "It is total happiness, everything else just goes away."
Dawn feels it. "For me it's more of a spiritual connection," she said. "It's not about me getting away from the world, it's about forming a higher connection with the people around me. Doing something you love to do with people you love to do it with. Kind of like what heaven might be like."
I told you I heard angels.