Wednesday, December 4, 2013

sing. Sing. SING!

sing. Sing. SING!
The title refers to the Peter, Paul and Mary’s In Concert album. If you know what I’m talking about, you’ll hear what I hear. If not, check it out. It’s a super fun concert—even in a recording and almost FIFTY years later. The quote above is from the beginning of “It’s Raining.”

I’ve always loved vocal music—singing. Certain songs just reach in to seize my soul, stretching it outside of my body, up and up, leaving a hollow, yearning place inside me. Hearing them—or my private, fumbling attempts to sing along with them—feels to me like becoming a living poem. All that emotion, wisdom, and power that can be distilled into a poem runs through the singer, heart, mind, body, and soul, escaping in magical sound.

All this love and yearning lingered in me as unformed potential until I had to write a report on a Broadway musical in junior high. I went to the library and brought home records (yes, records!) of West Side Story and Camelot. It was love at first sound. So much passion, such amazing stories, and all that beauty encapsulated in music—wow!

A friend introduced me to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The two of us spent a couple of months transcribing the lyrics on to notebook paper by hand—this was before the internet. I still have my “book” for the show, written in ballpoint. After that I dove into Andrew Lloyd Webber’s work and never really resurfaced. Of course, I discovered Les Mis not long into high school and you all know how much that affected me. I dreamed a dream long before Susan what’s-her-name!

So this seems like the beginning of a story straight out of Glee—I seem headed toward musical theater geekdom, living for auditions and solos.

Except I “can’t sing.”

Mostly, I think I was painfully insecure about singing in public. I had a few—quite a lot, actually—discouraging experiences early on and, of course, the more discouraged I got, the worse I sang. Singing at camp (because you have to), at church(because they can’t complain there, right?), to babies (what do they know?), and in the car kept my soul alive for years.

Learning to sing well has had the number one spot on my bucket list for a long time, though.

Then came August 24, 2013. I bet you all remember where you were that night. No? I don’t either, really. But I do know what happened that night. At her Hollywood Bowl concert, Kristin Chenoweth picked a voice teacher named Sarah Horn to sing “For Good” with her. A friend of Ms. Horn’s videotaped it and the video went viral.

I fell in love all over again. First I loved the experience—watching my dream come true, even if it was for someone else. The unknown audience member steps up to have the moment of a lifetime and does amazingly well. At the end of the song, Kristin gave her a hug that truly said “thank you” and “that rocked!”

Then I fell in love with the song. Wicked, like many other musicals—and movies, books, albums, cultural events in general—happened during the black hole created by having small children. So I’d never really gotten to know it. But the song found me at the perfect time, speaking to me about so many things in my life right now.

And then I had a light bulb. Sarah Horn—this amazing singer who just had this amazing experience—is a voice teacher. She teaches voice lessons. I could take voice lessons. Wait, what? Yes, I could. I could learn to sing!

So I did it. I signed up for voice lessons. And it has been…hard. I’m not going to be ready for the Hollywood Bowl any time soon. As I learned each new element I need to focus on, I got more and more tense. I stopped enjoying singing—even in the car. I wondered if it was worth it.

Then my sister sent me a video. This video. (I put in the long video because the context just makes it better.) I love Pentatonix but I definitely love this performance the most. I can see why Avi didn’t want to let it go—the magic happened. These five people connected with each other and the music and the meaning. They embodied poetry in motion. And I said, “That is what I’m after!” [Editor’s note: I realize I’ll never sing like Pentatonix. I am not delusional.]

So today, I decided to go down singing. If I’m going to mess up, it’ll be because I was singing my heart out, not because I’m cautiously, tentatively trying to match each note perfectly. I’m going to let that poetry pour through me. And then I thought something so profound that I surprised myself.

I thought, “I need to stop being so careful that I’m not even here.”

Yeah, that resonated in my life in a big way. I’ll let you know when I fully comprehend its impact.

So guess what happened?

Today I sang my whole song in tune. First try. In tune.

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