Monday, February 23, 2009

Lucille Ball and Me - Sharing the Spirit of Sweet Adelines

Hours after the birth of our first child, I found myself alone in my room with our little pink bundle. As the minutes wore on and the two of us continued to stare at one another, I began to feel uncomfortable. Isn't it rude to stare? Shouldn't someone at least say something?

My voice cracked as I broke the silence and began the conversation.

She stared.

I introduced myself and told her about our family.

She stared.

I told her about our home and pets.

She hiccuped and stared.

I told her about my dreams for her future.

The hiccups subsided. Still, she stared.

It was time for a change up. I started to sing.

I hadn't sung in front of ANYONE since I was a small child, so though I was singing to a completely nonjudgmental newborn, I was nervous. Plus, what if my husband walked in on us? What if he HEARD me?!

For months, I only sang when I was alone with the baby. I'd never received vocal instruction, and I wasn't sure I could even carry a tune. Oh, sure, everyone THINKS they can carry a tune, but some can't. You know who I'm talking about. We've all heard them. I was afraid I might be one of those. Still, E didn't care about vocal quality or tune. She didn't judge. So I sang.

Then along came V, more music, public displays of toddler tunes. The girls were singing beautifully, and it hit me: Maybe I should stop now. Maybe, if I can't carry a tune, I'll be a bad influence. But I didn't want to stop. I needed to find out if I qualified to continue singing aloud, or whether I should return to my previous performance stage: alone, in a vehicle with the windows rolled up.

First I opted for voice lessons through our local city rec program. Big mistake. The teacher told our class of women that ALL women are sopranos. I sure as hell definitely am not a soprano, and it took only seconds to determine neither was most of the class. I stuck around for a few weeks, but it was a losing battle.

Then I decided to look up my local chapter of Sweet Adelines. They took me in. They nurtured me through the holiday season allowing me to sing lead. Then when I committed to stay on beyond "Jingle Bells," they assigned me a new part - baritone.

Was this their way of telling me to get out? I don't know vocal performance etiquette. Maybe they don't actually simply ASK you to leave. Maybe they're too kind. Maybe you're supposed to take the hint. Seriously. What does a baritone do? I mean, really, listen to it sometime. Pick it out from a crowd, if you can. Those notes don't even make SENSE!

But if assigning me to bari was their way of politely asking me to shove off, it was only slightly too subtle for me. Instead, I learned that bari does, in fact, fit in, though I still don't understand how or why it provides that magical fourth note that helps make those chords ring.

Still, I've been flailing along and in serious need of basic vocal lessons. Perhaps, "Singing 101." Today, I got a really great dose of that. Our chorus spent four hours working through two songs, under the tutelage of two great coaches, Laura and Lisa. Four hours, two songs. These are SIX MINUTE songs....MAX! We worked them over and over, in parts, but seldom in whole. We worked on diphthongs and breathing and vocal quality and no break, no coffee, no chocolate.

It was worth it.

Then I found this video. Though I sing bari, I'm Lucy in more ways than I ever thought was possible:

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  1. What a great video clip!!! But you can't be Lucy----cuz I am!!

    When I was a young girl I wanted to be a singer (or a spy---or even better BOTH). I sang all the time, and in every school choir. It really seemed to help, as I had quite a stammer---specially when I was nervous. When I got to High School I took a voice training class---and I thought it was wonderful. Then, towards the end of the semester, when we were getting ready to choose our next semesters electives I mentioned to my teacher that I was going to sign up again. Well, I'm sure he thought he was being kind----but he told me that I shouldn't bother-----I was too "breathy" and would never have the qualities that a soloist needed. I was crushed. And I gave up on singing. Oh I'd sing in the shower--but that was it. Then about 8 yrs later a friend of a friend badgered me in to visiting a SA rehearsal------That was 30yrs ago last month.
    The first thing they taught me is that barbershop doesn't want "soloist" voices-----especially in the harmony parts---the point was to blend.

    So between learning to blend, project,and not throw up----it has been a fabulous hobby.

    I've stood next to you on the risers quite a bit now----you have a beautiful voice!! And now that you understand that it's the bari part that "makes" it barbershop (otherwise it would just be choral)----now you just need to work on your confidence. Sing out----sing proud----and know that we all love you. We couldn't do what we love without you baris!!! Sing out strong----we're right there with you---all the way.

    Laura and Lisa were wonderful coaches------very kind and loving------and this is what its like at the SA seminars---mostly the summer Regional. That one is all about our craft, and how to get there.

    So, from one Lucy to another------keep it up and don't be afraid.

  2. Oh My Goodness... for some reason I do not think I have been to your blog!!!

    anyway- it's a Broken Egg Shell! You got it!

  3. You took vice lessons as an adult. GO YOU!! That's s neat!

    (I love your Carrot Juice is Murder song there... "Let's call a spade a spade")

  4. You are now my hero. I tell dh all the time that I really want to take some voice lessons because I LOVE to sing, but I'm pretty sure I sound like crap. I'd like to not sound like crap - not that it matters to me all that much (I'm enjoying myself either way), but more for the enjoyment of those subjected to my wailings. Keep rockin' you!


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