Making Music

I sing as often as pos­si­ble. A voice teacher back in col­lege labelled me a lyric soprano, but my range runs from alto on up. In August 2000 I was blessed with the oppor­tu­nity to attend a work­shop called No Wrong Notes led by David Roth at the Omega Insti­tute. It was won­der­ful, and I was reminded of how much joy I get from mak­ing music. I went to Elise Witt’s Singing for Fun work­shop more recently, and it was an incred­i­ble experience.

As a soprano I’ve been spoiled by usu­ally singing the melody in any choral group. Spoiled or maybe crip­pled. In any case, in the last year or two I’ve just fallen in love with mak­ing har­mony, and really pre­fer to sing har­mony parts if I can find the right notes.

I pre­fer lul­la­bies and bluesy torch songs to most other sorts of music, but will sing any­thing from gospel to rock to art songs when appro­pri­ate. Cole Porter’s Love for Sale (a fairly tra­di­tional ver­sion, def­i­nitely not the one from the Red Hot and Blue album!), Carly Simon’s Hold­ing Me Tonight, and Bet­ter Not Tell Her, Bon­nie Raitt’s Some­thing to Talk About,
and (as a duet with a friend) Dan Hill’s Some­times When We Touch (we did the French ver­sion, which is Quand Nos Corps Se Touchent–rather more explicit than the Eng­lish lyrics – I think it was prob­a­bly an arrange­ment orig­i­nally done for Ginette Reno?) are a few of the songs I’ve performed.

I’m lean­ing more and more to con­tem­po­rary folk music these days, and our copies of Rise Up Singing are start­ing to look well-​​loved, to say the least (yes, as soon as the new vol­ume is out, we’ll own copies of it). I’m rather annoyed that The Prairie Home Com­pan­ion Folk Song Book is out of print — if any­one knows of a source, please let me know! My next pur­chase of a music book will likely be Kate Marks’ Cir­cle of Song, although Songs for Earth­lings and Libana’s song­book and A Bard’s Book of Pagan Songs : Sto­ries and Music from the Celtic World are very tempt­ing as well.

I was a reg­u­lar soloist and stal­wart choir mem­ber before leav­ing the South­ern Bap­tist church, and I miss that a lot – but not enough to be a hyp­ocrite and go back just for the music. I sang a fair num­ber of older hymns and gospel songs (Amaz­ing Grace, The Old Rugged Cross, and so on) as well as con­tem­po­rary Chris­t­ian songs from artists like Sandi Patti, Cyn­thia Claw­son and occa­sion­ally Amy Grant. I remem­ber enjoy­ing a group called Truth, but their songs were usu­ally arranged for ensem­bles – and I lis­tened to Acap­pella quite a lot. I’ve promised my mother that if I ever find the arrange­ment Man­hat­tan Trans­fer used for Oper­a­tor I will return to her church to sing it with any suit­able ensem­ble (I have the sheet music to the song, but it’s an solo arrange­ment – and my tal­ents don’t really extend to pick­ing out the har­mony from the CD). Our fam­ily was involved in a local Uni­tar­ian Uni­ver­sal­ist con­gre­ga­tion, and I really enjoyed singing in the choir again — the con­gre­ga­tion also had a monthly jam ses­sion, and Sam and I and the kids all enjoyed those. For­tu­nately there are three dif­fer­ent monthly singing ses­sions that I’ve found else­where in Atlanta.

I play the piano – but only in pri­vate to pro­tect inno­cent ears these days. I’ve lost the sen­sa­tion in half of my left hand–but hey, I have an excuse other than being out of prac­tice! I think I could prob­a­bly get bet­ter again with prac­tice, so I have started plink­ing around a bit when I have access to a piano (I need to get one for our home, though—Katie’s tak­ing lessons now and has a decent key­board, but it just doesn’t “feel right” to me). Years ago I actu­ally played well enough to accom­pany the senior cit­i­zens’ and children’s choirs at church (I have to admit that I was drafted — I was too pet­ri­fied to have ever vol­un­teered!), but I wouldn’t dare try now with­out a lot of practice.

I played the flute through mid­dle school and high school, and toyed with sev­eral other wood­wind and per­cus­sion instru­ments. I’ve found that I pre­fer the sounds of a wood flute I got at a Renais­sance Fes­ti­val a few years ago to the metal flutes more com­monly used today. Katie got an oca­rina a few years back and both of us play it from time to time.

I would love to learn to play acoustic gui­tar – but I am an absolute wimp think­ing about build­ing up those cal­luses! I always seemed to end up dat­ing the fel­lows who played gui­tar dur­ing infor­mal jam ses­sions after trips in my school days, and to be hon­est it would be much sim­pler to be able to play for myself. (But does any­one else remem­ber when every guy on earth seemed to know the entire Eagles repetoire, Wild­fire, Dan Fogelberg’s For­ever, a cou­ple of John Den­ver pieces, and Rocky Top? Was that what was in their primer books or what?)

Last updated Decem­ber 19, 2000

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