As a choir director, you hear a lot of strange things being sung in this world.
And after a few years of it,
no matter how much you love the work,
the singers you work with,
the entire atmosphere of creating,
the joy of directing chaos into less chaotic,
and listening to the applause “your” people earned,
there are still those moments when you look out over a filled house,
or at the stage, if you are at a concert,
and start to get that queasy feeling in your stomach.
Because you just know,
in your heart of hearts,
that the singer(s) have
- breathed wrong, tightened their jaw, are working far too hard, and are therefore about to
- produce texts that are going to embarrass themselves,
as well as everyone in the place,
By which I mean texts like:
incline your rear (incline your ear from Handel’s Messiah)
I sink, I can, I know I can,
many a blue morning- (many a new morning)
blue being the word for drunk over here.
And, if you, like me, are a fan of sixties golden oldies,
as well as classic,
you have surely heard groups at a rock concert singing something they are absolutely positive is the right text.
In perfect unison.
Much to the amusement of the musicians on the stage,
who wrote it.
(And just for the record, all of you stealing my stuff, it’s gospel train’s a-comin’, not gospel trains are coming.)
On the positive side, however,
I have also heard:
the Risen is life,
which I personally found pretty cool,
especially since the original was the rhythm of life.
Then there are the great singers who just can’t stop at the end of the text,
the fear of everyone in the biz,
tend to freudianly link,
which probably inspired such texts as
PDQ Bach’s “Loving is as easy as falling off a log,
a cat’ll love a cat and a dog’ll love a dog…hot dog.”
Or the ones where someone can’t understand the text, and fills in the blanks himself:
That’s ma little Choo-choo (Chatanooga Choo-choo)
or Fred sails at sunset,
which, I assume, was the inspiration for great texts like mersy dotes and dosey dotes,
(mares eat oats and does eat oats.)
probably written by a choir director.
Then there are the classics,
known to most people who one time or another sing,
for their bread, or just for fun,
like Silent night, holy night….Round John Virgin,
Or Oh Atomic Bomb
which I won’t even pretend is funny at this moment in history.
Not that I’m immune-
I once got distracted by a disturbance in the audience,
breathed too late, and ended up with a passage that starts high anyway,
and with a frontal vowel, and therefore needs preparation.
Result, My want, instead of I want.
Not that anyone noticed.
Or at least they were too polite to tell me,
which would quite surprise me,
since I was once told by someone his trombone playing was better than my singing.
Countered by his wife’s “oh no it isn’t”
Last night took the biscuit, though.
In an absolutely, with much time and effort, beautifully decorated hall,
filled with family,
and fantastic, prize-winning young musicians,
I heard, and saw, a very small girl fighting in the wings with her mother,
“I don’t care, I don’t want to sing.”
I started the clapping, hoping to encourage the little girl,
and she came on.
About six or seven years old.
a song from a children’s musical,
someone told me,
with her own text of
“I want to go home and eat hot dogs and icecream and play with my dog
instead of singing this dumb song,
and you should all go home and play with your dogs too.”
Hands on hips.
Respect, little lady. Respect.
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