aftermath

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Posts Tagged ‘karaoke

Still Alive

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Without any advance prep other than hearing Mick twist his voice around it, without so much as a time or two doing it along with him, I took on Wild Horses for karaoke earlier this month. Oh well, that’s what karaoke’s good for, right? Besides, it turned out to be the one I was happiest with, even though I did an encore of one of my faves – Sixteen Tons – well enough for one of our people to say I now own that song here. Then since Diane took the night off to watch the NCAA Championship game on karaoke night, I sang one she owns – You’re So Vain – except that I switched the words around to be pointing it at myself, with half our audience not quite sure if I was just having fun or might just actually take myself that seriously. Plus I did harmony to Mike (who was celebrating his 72nd birthday) on Tom Dooley and ran the bass line to Elvira.

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Written by macheide

14 April 2015 at 6:18 pm

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Accidental Tunes

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This one I would not have predicted, this particular line in my ninth life. To be so comfortable singing in front of people.

When we saw that our community had a group calling itself the Ragtimers, we bought me a used baritone horn, recalling my ancient history of expertise on the instrument, hoping for the opportunity to do a little ragtime jazz brass for fun. “That’s not quite the kind of band we are,” said the Ragtimers’ band leader when we approached him about my horn, “We’re mainly a ukulele band.”

Ukulele? I had memories of Tiny Tim updated with images of Steve Martin on the beach in The Jerk. Alright, except my two brief excursions in my distant past with string instruments were sad flops. Oh well. “But Adrien does play harmonica,” Suzi volunteered. Not really – what little I do tooting around on my harmonica has been too influenced by too much Dylan, yet I don’t have even as much basic expertise as some of my friends have, surely not enough to perform. But hmmmm, seems the Ragtimers did once have a harmonica player in their group, and maybe I could join them to let my harmonica give them a train whistle sound for Orange Blossom Special they’d be playing in an upcoming gig. Just a train whistle toot? Oh, I can handle that, yeah sure.

Surprise surprise, a few days later we came home from running an errand to find a loaner ukulele sitting on our porch. And although I hadn’t planned at all on trying to go that far with it, I did learn three basic uke chords in time to add a few strums to my train whistle harmonica at that one gig. And actually enjoyed those three chords enough for us to return that loaner ukulele in favor of purchasing me my own tenor uke. The beginning of a long slide into musical obsessions.

As we’d approached that first gig, the Ragtimers’ co-leader had asked our band to come up with suggested songs for the next gig after. At the time I still hadn’t considered myself a permanent member of the group, just available for the occasional harmonica toot and maybe eventually a few more chords on my uke. But looking through their existing collection of songs, the southern boy in me who had recently loved Leonard Cohen’s version of Tennessee Waltz figured it might be nice to hear someone do that song for our next gig. I didn’t know that suggesting the song for our playlist meant I was volunteering to sing a solo. I’d never sang in public before, and I’d not planned on ever doing so. But hey, I do have to say, drop dead more than eight times, and your ninth life tends to take an odd twist or two.

So there it was: at the Ragtimers next gig, I sang and played an interlude on my harmonica on Tennessee Waltz.

That was scarcely a year ago. Yet if I don’t jot it down now, I’m already losing track of the songs I’ve since sang in public. The audiences have all been casual, comfortable, very forgiving – homes for Alzheimers patients, local groups, karaoke gatherings, community events, the like. And I know I’m a very mediocre singer, if that. But this is the kind of giving and sharing that makes up life, whether it’s a ninth life or a first. So where three years ago I wouldn’t have dared dream of singing in public, now I look forward to each new song.

So anyway, as best I can remember, this is what I’ve sung the past 18 months —

  • Tennessee Waltz — With harmonica melody on the interlude, two separate gigs
     
  • Bright Lights and Blonde Haired Women — twice, playing the part of Tennessee Ernie Ford
     
  • We’re Off to See the Wizard — twice, as the Tin Man in a quartet
     
  • This Land Is Your Land — with harmonica, but not nearly as well as I thought I ought to have been able to sing it
     
  • MTA — standing in for Bobby, who was slated to sing it at a Ragtimers gig
     
  • Embraceable You — solo as part of a Gershwin medly, backed by a local orchestra
     
  • I Got Rhythm — duet with Suzi as part of a Gershwin medley, backed by the local orchestra
     
  • Side by Side — duet with Suzi, our best harmonization of any of the few duets we’ve done since I started this singing thing
     
  • High Hopes — duet with Suzi, good coordination and good harmony
     
  • Cruisin’ Down the River — twice, once as a duet with Jan, then for my first duet with Suzi when Jan had her own close encounter with death
     
  • Runaround Sue — karaoke, with my own variation on the lyrics, altered to acknowledge how a little bit of neck surgery wasn’t enough to stop Suzi for very long
     
  • Sixteen Tons — karaoke, but of all the times I’ve practiced it in the shower, I won’t ever do it better than I did for that one karaoke performance
     
  • Puff the Magic Dragon — karaoke duet with Suzi
     
  • You Are My Sunshine — first karaoke duet with Suzi
     
  • Folsom Prison Blues — karaoke, but I need to go back and do it better, since I know I can
     
  • Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town — karaoke, and lovin’ every note of it
     
  • New York, New York — Frank I ain’t, but someone had to do it for our karaoke crowd, may as well have been me
     
  • Sweet Caroline — Neil I ain’t either (no regrets, Sandi), but I always loved reaching down for that low note, so it was one of the first on my list for karaoke
     
  • To Make You Feel My Love — karaoke, channeling Adele’s cover of the Dylan love song
     
  • Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door — yes, I did straight Dylan for our karaoke friends
     
  • Subterranean Homesick Blues — and yes, I even did some hardcore Dylan!
     
  • American Trilogy — karaoke, less than happy about the karaoke tracking being so different in its timing than any of the Elvis renditions, but I really only sang it for the chance to do All My Sorrows anyway
     
  • It’s Christmas and I Wonder Where I Am — doing Tom Petty’s remake of Winter Wonderland for our community’s Christmas party
     
  • Build Me Up, Buttercup — rockin’ fun solo at one of our community concerts
     
  • Jingle Bell Rock — for a Ragtimers’ Christmas concert
     
  • Winchester Cathedral — karaoke
     
  • Love Will Keep Us Together — karaoke duet with Suzi, shortly after Captain and Tenille announced their plans to divorce
     

I know I’m forgetting some I’ve done (like, that I “sang” Tequila at this month’s karaoke), but even what’s here is more than enough to confirm that what started as quite an accidental tune has turned into music I now enjoy doing regularly. I sing. People actually don’t stick their fingers in their ears when I sing. And I enjoy singing. Helps bring me back to life.

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Written by macheide

19 July 2014 at 4:15 am

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Old Man’s River

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— post subject to continual updating through early August 2014 —

 

Even with the memory losses of age and experience, I can recall appreciating Paul Robeson’s Ol’ Man River way back when my baritone register was as distant in my then future as my falsetto rests in peace through my now past. But if I ever actually learned the song along the way, that’s long gone. So I dodged a request to sing it at last week’s karaoke event, begging off with a promise to be prepared to perform it at next month’s session.

Suzi tells me she doesn’t like the song. That’s ok; we all have our different likes and dislikes, and I don’t judge or insult hers like some take pleasure in mocking me mine. And we might actually be in synch on one thing that might annoy her, one phrase that colors the entire song difficult for me to sing: “[I’m] scared of dyin’.” I’m not. So much so the opposite am I, it’s one of the things that troubled her the most about my brush with death. So no doubt she gets flashbacks when she hears me practicing that portion of the song, as vividly so as the urgent expectations I feel swelling inside on the notes as I feel my soul proclaiming the absolute inverse of the words coming out of my mouth.

But yes, I am well on my way practicing Ol’ Man River for our next karaoke session August 4. Notes (in progress) —

  • As much as for many of our other selections, I’ll want to preview Bobby’s karaoke background instrumentation before my performance. Are we in the key I am expecting? If not, how many clicks up or down do I need to have Bobby take it? Is the instrumentation similar to the Robeson clip I have, where I will have little or no intro before I will need to set my first notes down? What if any background vocal accompaniment does the karaoke version have? Does it include the full intermediate section Robeson does? Are there any timing differences – speeding up, slowing down, pauses – that I will need to prepare for? Will the karaoke backing accommodate the slight variations I am planning to introduce?
     
  • I’m comfortable with the full range in the key Robeson himself sang it, strong and full all the way from the lowest rumbling notes near the beginning to the high-soaring notes closing the song out. I find my notes pretty well for the intro portion – “Dere’s an ol’ man called de Mississippi…” – if I first quietly hum to myself the main beginning – “Ol’ man river, Dat ol’ man river…”
     
  • I’m sticking with the good ol’ South ebonics, or whatever they call the style of Robeson’s version from Showboat. There’s no way the song sound right putting a D – even a soft D – at the end of “ol’.” And once I sing “Ol’ man river,” it sounds as silly and inconsistent to “whitewash” the rest of the enunciation and grammar as it would be to keep a “thee” in Shakespeare while modernizing everything else. So give me it jes de way it go.
     
  • On “jail,” I will want to drop the note down into the basement. Except that if the karaoke version runs through that segment a second time, then on the repeat I will hold the note as Robeson does.
     
  • I was having trouble with my R on “river” until I began exaggerating it down to “rivah.” It doesn’t sound right as “rivah” and of course shouldn’t be “rivah,” but practicing it with “rivah” even once first thing in the morning softens my R enough to last me the whole rest of the day giving me “river” the way I want.
     
  • I’m getting my “ol'” the way I want if I go hard on my L. Hold the O as long as I need for singing my vowel, yes, but bend down over that L to the M in “man” like I”m bending down a nail with my tongue. At first I thought this might be like my R in “river” – something to exaggerate a time or two to get the feel, then back off to the real thing – but no, it’s almost impossible to overbend that L without getting downright comedian about it, so I can risk going after it as much as I want in the performance version.
     

More notes to come. Currently I’m practicing this maybe 6-10 times each day.

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Written by macheide

17 July 2014 at 2:55 pm

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