Making Music

I sing as often as possible. A voice teacher back in college labeled me a dramatic soprano. 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, I’ve fallen in love with making harmony recently, and really prefer to sing harmony when possible.

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. A few of the secular songs I’ve performed are 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 and is rather more explicit than the English lyrics.

I’m leaning more and more to contemporary folk music these days, and my copy of Rise Up Singing is starting to look well-loved, to say the least. I’ve got Rise Again as well, but the songs in it aren’t quite as familiar. I’ve enjoyed Kate Marks’ Circle of Song and the Songs for Earthlings books, too.

I was a regular soloist and stalwart choir member before leaving the Southern Baptist church, and I miss that a lot ªbut not enough to be a hypocrite and go back just for the musicº. 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 Patty, Cynthia Clawson and occasionally Amy Grant. I remember enjoying a group called Truth, but their songs were usually arranged for ensembles. I also 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 a solo arrangement.)

Our family was involved in a local Unitarian Universalist congregation while Katie was growing up and I really enjoyed singing in the choir again. The congregation also had a monthly jam session, which was great fun. At one time I knew of three different monthly singing sessions around Atlanta, but at the moment I’m not aware of any. I performed with an a cappella vocal band named Trybalaka for a bit. That was a wonderful experience.

My first instrument was the ukulele, way back in second grade. The entire class learned to play. I kept it up for years, probably annoying my family. That ukulele became Katie’s “guitar” but survived the experience, lasting until a move in 2012. I replaced it with a much nicer tenor uke recently, but I haven’t gotten my chops back yet.

I play the piano, but only in private to protect innocent ears these days since I lost the sensation in half of my left hand. I think I could probably get better again with practice, and I’d love to get an electric piano with weighted keys. Years ago I actually played well enough to accompany the senior citizens’ and children’s choirs at church.

I played the flute through middle school and high school and toyed with several other woodwind and percussion instruments (bassoon, oboe, piccolo). 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.

I would love to learn to play the 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 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 repertoire, Wildfire, Dan Fogelberg’s Forever, a couple of John Denver pieces, and Rocky Top? Was that what was in their primer books or what?)

Rick plays guitar but prefers his bass. He’s able to get along on keyboards and has learned the ukulele in the last few months. His musicality amazes me!

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