Involuntary Singing

I’m in the midst of a two-day singing binge.  Yesterday I sang in the “Vorys Choir” at the firm — an ad hoc group that sings a few Christmas carols and parody songs at the Columbus office every year.  I’ve been doing it for years, and fortunately there is no requirement of any talent or singing ability.  The main criterion is that you are willing to don a Santa cap and sing out loud, as Buddy the Elf instructed — and that’s something that I can do.  It’s fun.

hqdefaultToday, we’ll be going to the all-day Beatles marathon at the Bluestone.  Starting at 12:30, the performers will run through every song in the considerable Beatles repertoire — with a few others thrown in.  The Sgt. Peppercorn performers are a lot more talented and professional than the “Vorys Choir,” but there’s no doubt that, at many points during the show, I’ll be joining in.

When I hear Christmas songs I just find myself singing along, and when I hear Beatles songs I do the same.  I can’t help myself, really.  I know all of those Christmas and Beatles songs by heart, and I’ve sung along to them since I was a kid.  When I hear them now, I just naturally join in.

For the record, I think it’s easier to sing along with the Beatles, because all you need to do is follow the lead singer in the Beatles’ recordings, in whatever key and tempo and vocal stylings they chose.  When I sing Ticket to Ride, I think I sound like John.  When I sing Hey Jude, I think I sound like Paul.  Christmas songs sung by the “Vorys Choir” are harder because of the key chosen by our musical accompanists — so you might start out in a comfortable vocal range on Silent Night, for example, and mid-song find yourself beyond the top end of your capabilities and needing to downshift into a lower register.  In any professional choir, that would be verboten.  Fortunately, with the racket created by the “Vorys Choir,” nobody notices and nobody cares.

I hope that every Webner House reader gets to sing a favorite song of their choosing, aloud, during this holiday season, and enjoy the chance to make a little noise.

Annual Singing

When it comes to singing, I subscribe to the Buddy the Elf approach:  “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

maxresdefaultSo, yesterday I donned a Santa cap and, with about two dozen other lawyers at the firm, engaged in our annual holiday singalong.  We remember and honor two of our departed partners who loved the singalong, perform for a roomful of absurdly supportive colleagues and friends, and belt out favorites like The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) and I’m Getting Nuttin’ For Christmas, as well as new parody songs with lyrics deftly penned by one of our talented partners.

When you only sing out loud once a year, it takes a while to really hit your stride . . . if you even have a stride.  There’s a musical concept called a key — I think that’s the right word — that you have to figure out, and it takes some searching and a few songs to find the right range.  I usually realize I’m singing in the wrong key when the high notes come out like more of a high-pitched screech; then I overcompensate and end up in a key where the low notes come out with an earthquake-like rumble.  This is why no one who has any kind of singing talent wants to stand next to me at these annual performances.

Our little singing group will never be mistaken for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but we make up for our overall lack of talent with enthusiasm and sheer volume.  And Buddy is right:  It’s fun and it always puts me in a good holiday mood.

At The Messiah Side-By-Side Sing-Along

For a number of years now, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra has been presenting George Frideric Handel’s Messiah in a side-by-side sing-along format — where all of the singers among us can join together in the majestic confines of the Southern Theatre and sing their hearts out to the 15 separate full chorus sections of some of the world’s most beautiful holiday music.  Last night Kish and I and our friends Mr. and Mrs. JV took it all in for the first time, and it made for a fabulous holiday experience.

IMG_7589Most of us have heard the Hallelujah chorus from the Messiah and, probably, tried our hands at singing along, but there’s a lot more to the Messiah, and a lot more to the ProMusica experience.  Last night’s program was hosted by the affable and knowledgeable Dr. Robert J. Ward, the Director of Choral Activities at The Ohio State University, who offered interesting and funny commentary about the composer, the music, and the message and feeling Handel was seeking to achieve in this choral masterpiece.  To make the evening even more special, the ProMusica orchestra was joined by a host of student musicians from schools that partner with ProMusica in their music programs, and the combined orchestra was guest-conducted by Dr. Ross and seven other local church and school music directors who each directed different choruses.  And the audience — or perhaps I should say the performers seated in the theatre rather than on stage — featured singers from no fewer than 12 local church and school choirs and choral groups, roughly divided into bass, tenor, alto, and soprano sections.  The combination of students and teachers, professionals and aspiring performers, gave the evening an almost magical, festive feel.

And, make no mistake:  the people in the theatre (except for the four of us, who were too awe-struck to utter a peep) were there to sing, in the most full-throated and unabashed way.  They all brought their copies of the score to the Messiah and followed the direction of the composers, and they sang wonderfully.  It tells you something very positive about your community when it can fill a theatre with highly capable singers who can read music and skillfully navigate the difficult vocal gymnastics of some very complex Baroque music.

The combined effect was, in an oft-overused-but-nevertheless-apt-in-this-instance word, awesome.  The theatre was jammed, and the only seats available when we arrived were in box at the side of the theatre, right in front of the stage and next to the bass section.  It turned out to be a spectacular and inspired location, with orchestral beauty coming from one direction and song from the other, giving us a kind of total immersion in the music.  And the feeling coming from the students excited to be on stage, the guest directors happily getting the opportunity to strut their directing stuff in front of a big crowd, and the singers joyfully singing with all of the talent they could muster created an indelible impression.  You don’t fully appreciate the combined power of a choir until you are sitting in their midst.

I’d be willing to bet that every person who walked out of the Southern Theatre after that performance was filled with the holiday spirit and feeling better about the world.  Dr. Ross said at the outset of the program that their goal was not to change the world, but just to make the two hours of the performance as wonderful as it could be.  Mission accomplished!

Carolers In The Dark

Last night we were expecting guests.  We went to the door when the doorbell rang, but instead of our guests, it was a group of carolers, adults and children both, belting out a holiday song with great gusto.

What a pleasant surprise!  After they finished, we thanked them and wished them happy holidays.  They looked like they were having a good time, and they made our evening a bit more merry, too.  Kish and I both recalled going out caroling when we were kids, and how much fun it was to be outside, singing those old familiar songs.

The group was affiliated with GnG Music Instruction, 45 Second Street, Suite B, here in New Albany, which all kinds of vocal and instrumental music instruction.  They deserve a plug after brightening our evening and bringing back some great childhood memories.