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Making Music

I sing as often as pos­si­ble. A voice teacher back in col­lege labelled me a dra­mat­ic 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 I real­ly enjoyed those. At one time there were three dif­fer­ent month­ly singing ses­sions around Atlanta, but at the moment I’m only aware of one, and it hap­pens while I’m work­ing.

I sang 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. 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, and I’d love to get an elec­tric piano with weight­ed keys (elec­tric so there’s no need for tun­ing wor­ries). 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 (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. Katie got an oca­ri­na a few years back and both of us played 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 July 28, 2015