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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Terror On The High "C's!"

(More like Middle C, since I'm more of an alto.)

I had two, count them, TWO singing gigs in July. This is a plentiful harvest as I have not sung this many in a month in years. I'm very grateful!

They were both for seniors. One was at a Retirement Home or Senior Living joint in Canton, Ohio. Whatever the P.C. thing is to say. A place where Seniors live in apartments. It's pretty swank. I did a gig there in March or April and ate dinner. The food was astonishingly good. I was stunned. Last Friday's gig was for the Akron South High Class of 1949. That doesn't seem that long ago, considering that my brother was born that year. I did a lot of research for that one. Musically and news-wise too. Found out some interesting stuff.

I've been working with this 70-something pianist, Leo. He's a good player, very musically learned (even though I think he was an engineer of some sort). He played piano during the Korean War for service clubs over there. He's kind of a fussy dude and doesn't have a terrific sense of humour but he's nice. His wife died last year. She was Force To Be Reckoned With. We met doing a Canteen style show for the benefit of the Humane Society ("Bow-Wow Boogie") last year. I'm glad I did it, I figured it would be for a really great cause and I might meet some nice people. I these gigs are the 5th and 6th I've done with Leo. It may be a few more.


The one for the Canton Seniors was fun and easy. I learned a couple of new tunes, no worries. It's nice to learn new tunes. They are a great crowd and they sing along with darn near every one. They are a very participatory and appreciative crowd.

Now I really think I have a pretty good working musical vocabulary. For Standards or what is now called euphemistically "The Great American Songbook." However, I discovered that while it's hard to stymie me with WW2 era tunes, my musical education seemed to skip from V-J Day to the mid-50s. I somehow missed 1946-1950. Leo took the research I'd given him on top tunes of 1946-49 and ran with it. Like a sprinter! When he presented his preliminary suggestions I d**n near fainted dead away. "Uh," I muttered to myself,"Ooooh-kkkkay. Yep, I'm screwed!" On his first list (about 40 songs, I knew --- really knew, like "I could sing them NOW" knew --- maybe five songs. I had heard OF most of the others but some were unknown to me. Panic set in.

As he honed down the list to about 20-25 songs, I still shuddered. I knew almost NONE of these tunes. I did more research, this time listening to his choices, which seemed to include WAY more Perry Como than I ever wanted to hear. (I'm not a fan. Perry Como always seems to be Sinatra or Tony Bennett on Valium. A lot of Valium.)

My personal issue was not with the music necessarily. Some of the songs he suggested were really nice, like MY FOOLISH HEART and I WISH I DIDN'T LOVE YOU SO (which he ended up cutting). Some were cute, like PERSONALITY, a really adorable Dinah Shore song that must make women libbers want to load their Uzis or SHOO FLY PIE (I had to look it up; it's a sugar pie). Some I dislike. RAG MOP comes to mind. Ugh. Stupid, stupid song. Leo's final list contained "15 Songs I Did Not Know." Crap. I really worry, albeit perhaps unnecessarily about MEMORISING stuff. It seems more challenging than ever. I was and am really scared of fowling the whole thing up, looked stupid, and getting "fired!" because I don't know the music. The really frightening part was not only did I NOT know the lyrics (often the case) but I didn't know the MELODIES either! Two weeks to learn this stuff. I had become complacent and this was unnerving me.

"Maybe I'm not as good as I think I am."

So I started listening to the stuff. Writing down the lyrics and making cards for each song. I haven't had to do this many songs in this short of a time in decades. I kid you not. Thank God for a cell phone that holds MP3s. Thank God for the darn technology! I could find the original song by the original artist and buy the tune on Amazon or Rhapsody.

One song was particularly tough and Marty, bless his heart, was absolutely NO help at all. It's called "It's Magic" and it was a gi-normous hit for Doris Day. However, Bugs Bunny also sang it! With other words. So while I'm trying to learn:

"You sigh, the sun begins/ You speak and I hear violins/ It's Magic," my darling husband is doing his best Bugs Bunny impression:

"Oh, carrots are divine/ You get a dozen for a dime/ It's Maaaaaaa-gick!"

Groovy. Thanks, Marts. Now I've got the d**n Bugs version in my head and it's not going away. We finally made a pact; he wouldn't do Bugs until after the gig was over. As soon as I had done the song (number two in the program --- Leo is big on Programs), I sang that stanza for the audience. At least it was out of my head. I had one Porky Pig moment (PERSONALITY), and had to use my cards for 2 songs but other than that, it went well. I just had to glance at the cards, not read word for word. One song ("To Each His Own") I dislike and my brain just does not want to memorise songs it hates. I hate "Rag Mop" too but I got through that one. The other one I heeded the words for was Choo-Choo-Ch'Boogie: it has more words than the Declaration of Independence! I love the song but it's hard. Both songs I just needed the cards for security purposes.

It's strange how songs get stuck in your head, isn't it? I just didn't need "Oh, carrots are divine," in mine. It's also strange this that gig shook me up. In some ways, my confidence is still shaken and stirred. And it ain't no James Bond Martini either.

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