Unitarian Hymnal Sing-along

In which Kathryn attempts to sing a different song everyday from the Unitarian Universalist hymnal, 'Singing the Living Tradition'. Earlier posts are based on songs from the Reader's Digest songbooks she found at yard sales as a child, including: 'Reader's Digest Treasury of Best Loved Songs', 'Reader's Digest Family Songbook', and 'Reader's Digest Family Songbook of Faith and Joy'. Bonus Folk song material from: 'Folk Song USA', by John and Alan Lomax.

27 February 2007

"Mansion Over the Hilltop"

Will the horror never end? Will there come a song that doesn't suck to sing, that--dare I say it--inspires me? Will this book last forever? Will I be foolish enough to continue? Stay tuned, gentle reader, and meanwhile: never sing this.

A few years ago I assumed command, as it were, of the adult singing group at my daughter's Waldorf School. I managed this not through any great show of experience, or talent, but through knowing just the smallest bit more than anyone else, and being crazy enough to be willing to take on the work. Plus, I had a lot of music at home to peruse, and a mild obsession with finding more.

This year our group, The Purple Mondays (named for Rudolph Steiner's convention of associating colors with days of the week), took a different turn. We suddenly became a smaller group, though not for any one reason, it seemed. I was very discouraged, though. We had been doing so well, and then it seemed that our momentum had died. I called the group together to discuss options.

The response was overwhelming: everyone, all five of us, wanted to keep singing. We wanted to do more challenging, interesting, and fun pieces. We wanted to stay small. We wanted costumes, preferrably with tight striped and flared pants, and shirts with fringe. We chose a variety of groups to research, and quickly acquired enough music to get us started.

This last Monday evening the four of us present sang some new rounds to warm up, improvised harmonies to some folk and gospel tunes as a second course, and then sang a bit of 'Java Jive' and 'Boogie Woogie Bugler Boy', and Wow. *We* weren't perfect, but the sweet smell of possibility was in the air. We realized that we could do this. The chosen songs we started with might not seem to be that challenging, or contemporary, but gosh golly they're a heck of a lot of fun. Give me four part harmony any day, and my day takes a turn for the happy land. Give me more.


15 February 2007

"A Satisfied Mind"

I've been needing to sing, but reluctant to sing. Lately I've been attempting--with some success--to give up the things which no longer 'feed' me, and singing songs of 'Faith and Joy' generally doesn't do it. It's not that I don't have 'faith' or 'joy', but my faith is not as narrowly defined as the Reader's Digest editors of the '70s (or, I suspect, of the present) would assume. Still, this is also a technical exercise: to sight read a piece, piano-wise, to learn it and sing it as technically well as I can at this moment, vocal-wise. This is an especially good exercise when I have no emotional attachment to the piece, when I can be more objective and distanced. This song is one of those pieces. I tried a new trick that I've learned with this one: my voice teacher suggested taking any songs written for men to sing down a third. It does work a lot better that way, it's very satisfying when a simple trick like this makes a difference.

I fear that my voice in general is not going to become what I want it to be by means of a simple trick, though. I've learned a lot of fun tricks with my voice teacher, but what I want from my voice is that quality of welcome: when someone hears me sing I want them to either sing along, or be wrapped in the warmth of the story that I tell. Now, I just sound like a classically trained singer. Not even a particularly gifted one, just an adequate one. I can sing in tune. I love music. I feel a sort of despair that I will not learn the tricks well enough to have my voice invite others to share that love on a vascular level.

Music is something so lovely in its universal nature: many, many people can share music with minimal talent, and very great pleasure. Being 'merely' a listener can also bring great joy, even transcendence. I don't know how to reconcile my very great and lifelong love of music, of singing, with this lack of talent, and it's more painful to know that I am most likely part of an immeasurely large group of peole who share this feeling.

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