Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Popping Up....and Singing!

When I was growing up, there was always music playing in the house--the radio on as background to our daily lives, or when one of my parents wanted to hear something specific...albums (yes, the vinyl kind)...or 8-tracks (the dinosaurs of recording, marking me as prehistoric...sigh..). Now, some of the selections I...didn't care for so much...such as Old, OLD School Country (Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams--the original, not his son...who, truth be told, isn't a fave either--and the like). On the other hand, I somewhat shared my dad's penchant for folk music ( Kingston Trio--anyone else heard of them? I didn't think so...) and early rock 'n roll (Buddy Holly, Elvis).

But my mother...she was the one who introduced me to SHOWTUNES. (Thaaaanks, Moooom!) She exposed me to some of the classics: Chorus Line, Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease (the play, of course, long before Travolta and Newton-John offered their version). (And on a historical note, I use the term "exposed" loosely, as she banned certain tunes until I was in high school and she deemed me "mature enough" to hear them. Dance 10, Looks 3 (aka "Tits and Ass") was an obvious no-no...but it was YEARS before I actually understood--and was properly mortified by--the lewd words to Greased Lightning. Not to mention being in college before knowing what the term "Mooning" meant. What can I say? I was a sheltered one...)

From there, I discovered other gems on my own--I became a huuuuge fan of Pippin, for example. And when I got to high school? And there was a Spring Musical every year...allowing me the opportunity to be on stage...and dance...and siiiiing my little heart out? H-E-A-V-E-N! But even when I wasn't at rehearsal, I would still just belt out songs all the time--to myself, in the car, while washing dishes...whatever, whenever. As I've gotten older, this tendency has diminished to a certain degree--if I had to pinpoint a reason, I would hazard a guess that it's mainly because life is often so busy, and filled with..."noise" of all kinds--from activities, people...my own constantly-running brain--that I cherish silence more than I ever did before.

Don't get me wrong--I still sing along to certain tunes...and when I'm alone in the car, particularly on a long trip? Out come the soundtracks, baby: the trusted standbys (now on CD, at least!) and also some new...er...ish...additions, like Rent, Hairspray, Lion King (Sir Elton John on Broadway, with apologies to the Mouse), Aida. Little Shop of Horrors, Wicked. And I probably should give credit to Glee (the early seasons, when the music was faaaabulous) for reviving my passion for breaking into song at any given moment--much to my family's chagrin. ("MOM! Do you have to do that?" Why YES, yes I do, my beloved son. Suck. It Up.)

Alas, an adult...who's not in the entertainment industry...is presented with precious few chances to put one's singing voice to use, other than in the aforementioned privacy of one's own house or vehicle, wouldn't you agree? (Or maybe karaoke...which has always seemed equal parts potentially embarrassing and utterly terrifying to me. Hey, I was always part of the "company" for our productions--safety in numbers, and all that!) However...in the Sunday edition of our local paper, an article caught my eye...about a little phenomenon called the Pop-Up Chorus.

Apparently, this is a group that meets twice a month to learn two songs, practice until everyone's comfortable, and then...perform them for a music video. Whaaaat? Surely you have to try out for such a thing, yeah? Uh-uh--there's no auditioning...no talent requirement whatsoever, in fact. If you enjoy singing, no matter your skill level or...ahem...vocal acumen...you are welcomed. Oh. My. Gosh. While I sat at the kitchen table reading the details, it took all of my willpower not to jump up and down with enthusiasm, as I imagined how much of a freakin' BLAST this could be.

So yeah...I did pause to consider being nervous, for a few brief moments...then gave myself a stern warning to get over it, and purchased my ticket. No backing out now! (Incidentally, the paper mentioned that the bar will be open in the lobby of the Arts Center where the event is being held, which I suppose is an excellent idea on their part--both for revenue, and for "liquid courage"..so I can always fall back on that in a...theatrical... emergency, right?)

UPDATE: Well, I got home a little while ago, and can I just tell you THAT WAS SUPER-AMAZINGLY AWESOME, Y'ALL! First of all, there were about a hundred people there, both locals, and folks who drove in from towns all around the vicinity. Next, there was a real, live band to accompany the choral efforts. Not to mention a director who led the whole shebang. And believe me, it was kind of a major undertaking--with repeated run-throughs, and instructions on how to create layers of harmony, and people raising their hands and asking technical questions about particular notes or wording...and whatnot. In short, it was like....Singing Class! Dude! (I'm still buzzed on adrenaline....perhaps you couldn't tell...)

Tonight's numbers were Karma Chameleon by Culture Club and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton himself. When we arrived, we were handed a lyric sheet for reference, and boy, was THAT eye-opening. Boy George's lines were familiar...but as for the other tune...it's such a gorgeous piece of music that I had noooo idea what Elton was actually, you know, saying. Now I get that he was pretty damn bitter and angry at someone. Huh. So, also a learning experience, yeah? Anyway, we rehearsed, and made tweaks based on the director's expert critiques, and finally let it all hang out for the final take--dancing was strongly encouraged, here--while a videographer captured the whole scene for posterity...or, you know, YouTube....

I was thrilled to find out that it was every bit as inclusive and accepting as advertised. There was no "back there, you're off key" or "the section to the left, someone's getting pitchy". Nope. Everyone just opened their mouths, and let fly. It was all "come as you are, and be who you want" (which, come to think of it, may very well be one of the unspoken mottos of Carrboro...). At some point during one of the "yellow brick ro-oh-oad, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah" verses, the guitarist actually called us Angels of Carrboro. Okay, that might have been pushing it a teeny bit, but somehow, inexplicably, 100-odd strangers managed to join their voices together and sound...at the very least, "pleasingly melodic".

Whew! I haven't sung like that in...I can't tell you how long. The whole evening totally exceeded my expectations of...fun...ness. And I've already told my family that they can plan for me to be penciling in this engagement twice a month...come rain or shine (or soccer, or what have you...) I might be hoarse tomorrow, but it was well worth it...and this may motivate me to start working out the vocal chords in the Subaru again...I'll just consider it "training" in my "studio" for next time. Whoo hoo!

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