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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Song Stuff: A Few of my Current Obsessions

Girls Girls Girls (Celtic Thunder)- This song was in the Voyage show, and is on the DVD for that show. I know I first heard this song as a barbershop chorus arrangement, probably at a barbershop concert at Chautauqua in Boulder. If I am remembering the concert correctly, the men's chorus sang this song, and then the Sweet Adelines chorus came on in their bright ruffled red dresses for their portion of the show. I was 5-8yrs old, probably about 6, so this was a long time ago. The song, though, is characteristically not a barbershop original, but comes from a band called Sailor, out of Britain. Sadly, for all the information on the Internet now, there is not as much as I would wish, especially about songs like this. And, there are very few barbershop recordings of this one online, let alone good ones. Amusingly, the lead singer of Sailor in the 70's was a Norwegian man, and one of the other guys on vocals was German, so the original version of this song has a strong accent, like the guy is singing with marbles in his mouth, almost, just like a lot of the Scandinavian and German a cappella groups who have videos of this song online now.

The Banjo Song (Keith Harkin)- YouTube says this song is by Keith Harkin, and he is certainly the man singing it. I am guessing he wrote it, too, especially since it sounds like his sort of lyrics. Anyway, this song is making me feel guilty about my poor old mandolin. This song is about a banjo that is always out of tune, and is nonetheless well loved. One of the verses tells that the banjo was given to a friend and for 4 years it sat alone and cried, just wanting to be heard and loved. Talk about guilt-tripping! Yes, ok, so I have not yet learned how to tune my mandolin, let alone play it, but it is only even mine because my dad abandoned it. But excuses or not, I am now going to have the image of my poor mandolin sobbing in its corner until I get it fixed up and play with it, all because of Keith and his banjo song.

In Too Deep (Ryan Kelly)- I do really hope that Ryan starts writing happier music soon. If not, perhaps his life can stay happy and satisfying, enough that it is really obvious that he is not actually depressed. He does the melancholy brooding image very well. This particular song, though, off Ryan's album In Time, seems to be nearly autobiographical, if it were in fact written this year about the crap he was going through this past year. Especially as a song posted on Valentines Day, it's no wonder Ryan seemed to be feeling this song particularly keenly when he was recording his acoustic version of this song. Still, so long as he is doing much better now, this song is actually quite good. I have been using stills from it to practice drawing facial expressions, and it's definitely growing on me the more I hear it. Too bad he and Neil Byrne will only be on the East Coast for their mini tour this next few weeks, cause I'd bet he will be playing this tune for at least some of those shows.

Gethsemane- from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar,this song has of course been sung by many people. I would love to hear Ryan Kelly's version, actually, but for now I have versions sung by Michael Crawford and Michael Ball, and especially with Ryan's "Were You There" video on youtube, these songs dramatize nicely some of the most human elements of the Biblical crucifixion story. As a staunch atheist, I am not inclined to seek out religious music, but with the centuries of development Christian music has enjoyed, there is a lot of great music which is unavoidably religious. And, even without the faith and belief that a Christian might bring to these songs, the stories told through Bible scenes in songs like these capture some of the more complex and poignant moments in human life.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Wonder of Living Instruments

Another semester of graduate school is over, and with it another semester of university choir. I am registered for choir again next term, perhaps my last for a long while, but for the next few months I'll be back to singing solely as a private entertainment, mostly singing along with songs on my computer. [Actually, I will be working on arrangements of at least one old Irish folk song for next year's choir program, so I will no doubt be singing a bit while working out the parts for those songs. I have the range necessary to sing through all 4 parts of a women's choir arrangement of anything, even if my soprano notes get rather sad and thin at the top; so, if I can at least sing all the parts I have arranged, at all, a 4 part choir can also sing those parts comfortably.] I was pondering the idea of singing in music tonight, while trying to write about culture theory. On my spotify playlist right now I have a mix of tracks from Josh Groban, Rhydian Roberts, Paul Byrom, Michael Ball, Lesley Garrett, Katherine Jenkins, and Peter Corry, plus various musical tunes. The music I was listening to earlier today was all Spanish language flamenco music, somewhat channeling Cinco de Mayo, sort of. Anyway, I gave up on the flamenco after a while not because the songs all sounded the same, but because I could not sing along. Irish rock (jigs and modified dance tunes) similarly were not satisfying. So, until I get hoarse enough that I can't sing along even to the easier songs, I am back to my core favorite music style- people whose voices are instruments that need no accompaniment. I always have liked the story about the old violin at an auction which no one wanted to bid on. A man quietly walked up to the stage, picked up the battered instrument and started to play some beautiful music, and when he finished playing, set the violin back on the auction stand and left, the audience suddenly wanted to bid on the violin. One of the morals I've heard attached to this story is that the music is in us, and needs simply to be played. What I like about singing is that the music is in fact in us, and we don't need some contraption of wood and strings to make the music come out. [gee, this post seems not to have had a point at all...] Maybe once I get my chapter written, I'll come back to this idea with a more coherent post. In the meantime, I highly recommend any of the folks I've mentioned above. Or for more luscious vocal music, try some a cappella. My absolute favorites so far tonight: Amazing Grace (Celtic Thunder)- still one of the best versions of this song I have heard. I LOVE the way Ryan and Keith sound in the first few bars. Alejate (Josh Groban)- one of the first songs I heard by Josh, so this is one of his songs that seduced me into being his fan. Amazing Grace/Nearer My God to Thee (Lesley Garrett)- With Ladysmith Black Mambazo(LBM), singing the gospel medley I have known for years from LBM, but with Lesley Garrett this medley becomes something absolutely stunning. :)