Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Let's All Sing Along . . .
I sang as a kid. I was in chorus. I was in plays and musicals. I went to All County, Area All State and even sang at Solofests. I sang a little in church too. I sang while doing my chores (the birds helping me to hang laundry on the clothes line, etc.) and I sang when I was sad. I still sing - much to Joy and Ava's chagrin - in the car, shower and while watching Noggin!
Let me be clear - I don't think I have a good singing voice. I really don't. I used to enjoy singing but I've never fancied myself as "talented." I never dreamed of pop stardom or a role in Phantom of the Opera (that was the default musical to adore when I was a teenager dreaming of life before me) and I never thought about trying out for American Idol (God bless those that do) or doing anything with my "pipes" beyond entertaining myself and my daughter . . . and annoying my wife (I make up lyrics to songs all the time that often involve how bad Joy's feet smell or how much I adore sharing our bed with our daughter and a dog, etc.).
There are those out there that can sing though. People with real talent that no one beyond their friends, family and fellow parishioners will ever hear sing. People who could likely, in the right scenario, find themselves truly enriching the world around them with the sounds that vibrate out of their honey-and-lemon-soothed throats. The simple fact is that many of them will never have that scenario play out and eventually they, like millions before and millions after them, will just stop singing for anything more than ways to pass the time in the shower, car and family bed.
When I was a senior in high school I took a second visit at Quinnipiac that coincided with a friend of the family visiting Yale for a second time. Our mothers decided we should all carpool down together (they are only about 10 minutes apart) and we had dinner the evening we arrived just off Yale's campus.
While we were walking to the restaurant I heard something magical coming from one of the many corridors of the Yale Campus. I did not know what it was called at the time but - in hind sight - I was listening to one of the 3,458,239 a cappella groups that form annually at America's Ivy League and other prestigious/noteworthy colleges and universities. There were about 20 of them. Men and women. Singing "Creep" by Radiohead. They probably called themselves "Here Comes Treble" or "Bass in Your Fass" or "Harmonies R Us" or something classy like that. They probably all studied something totally random by day (European Fiction from the 1600s or South American Women's Studies) and they graduated a few years later to work on Wall Street accordingly (ah, Yale). Regardless - they were talented and I wanted to stand and listen to them sing for hours but one of the women in our dinner party was talking about the gang activity of New Haven ) and how we had to keep moving to get to the restaurant "safely" (let me assure you the "Yale part of New Haven" was and is still safe).
Anywho - fast forward a few years. I'm a college "kid." In the mid-90s. The world is listening to grunge (Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, BORING!) and rock and hip-pop is just starting to explode (I love you Puffy) and the chick-guitar movement was in full swing. I was horrified by almost all of it (I still love you Puffy and Alanis) and I was obsessed with such cutting edge, cool music as Barenaked Ladies and a mix CD my friend GUYK made for me of the National Collegiate A Cappella Championships (or something like that) and a guy named Ben Folds (then making music with two other guys who collectively called themselves the Ben Folds Five).
The 14 years or so since have been wonderfully musical. I've found a lot of great music that I really enjoy and different sounds and genres have captured my attention (I even went through a "world music" phase in 1999 (God forgive me)) and I have seen many of my favorites just sort of disappear but I've always had a lurking and constant obsession with Ben Folds and a cappella music. I have bought a few CDs of a cappella music over the years and I have enjoyed the universe of young people singing a cappella on YouTube too. And the best part . . . the a cappella world seems to enjoy Ben Folds almost as much as I do.
Yesterday was a great day for me. GREAT day. Ben Folds, having long since realized the a cappella world enjoyed his music, decided to "go back to school" and tour the country to record several college groups singing his songs. And he put the best performances together and released them as an album.
The album is GREAT. Sample it. Get infected with/by it. Download it. Harmonize to it. Make your showers and car rides and wife mocking more enjoyable because of it.