“Mother says I was a dancer before I could walk. She says I began to sing long before I could talk.”
[ABBA “Thank You for the Music”]
was me, apparently. Or so I’m told; I may be a little hazy on the details.
My first public performances were at the age of two, serenading the local grocer’s shop with the recently-released Tom Jones classic “De-wi-wah” (Give me a break, Ls are hard when you’re two!) The customers seemed to like it and fed me chocolate. Granted, this could have been to give me something else to do with my mouth, but hey, this was back in the days before I got all angsty and self-conscious about the sound of my own voice, and just sang for the joy of it.
At school I was considered a bit of a girly swot (Not entirely true- Couldn’t count then, can’t count now); so when I dared to try out for an inter-schools singing competition, I was met with a positive tsunami of ridicule. I subsequently won the competition, but this seemed beside the point. The message was clear- you have no business calling yourself a singer. Lesson learned.
February is Storytelling Month, so we are taking a look at the art of storytelling in song this month. Ode to Billy Joe was released by Bobbie Gentry in 1967 and is a spine-tingling example of mystery storytelling at it’s very best. Bobbie Gentry matched her story writing with her vocal storytelling abilities. It is her performance of the song that really brings the story to life.
Sometimes singers are guilty of forgetting that songs are about communicating with an audience. They go through the motions of singing a song without really thinking about the words or the manner in which they are delivering them. An unthinking performance can make the best written song in the world sound banal.
(photograph courtesy of Gary Bridgman)
If you find you are already struggling with your New Year’s resolutions, you will not be alone! After the over-indulgences of the festive season (no matter our good intentions, we all tend to find ourselves eating more and exercising less!) the New Year has come to be viewed as a time for starting better habits and taking up new activities. While we may start these ventures with positive intentions, these intentions may be overturned quite quickly when we realize that some things prove to be less appealing in the cold light of day. Getting up early to go out for a jog may have the shine taken off it, after the umpteenth time you have returned soaked and wind-blown on cold January mornings.
A little story by one of our members, inspired by a discussion at one of our Singing Sessions.
"Paul!" She isn't sure it's him. But it looks like him. "Paul! Sir Paul!" At the station, Wemyss Bay. Of all places. She's only come for the day, to see the glass roof. Well, why not? It is a smashing glass roof. Ha ha. The sky outside is a pale January blue. She can see the seagulls' feet overhead, yellow and flat on the glass, semi-see-through, lit up by the sun. There is a book shop she'll look at later, and the air is cold. It's nice here.
He turns, wearily. OMG! It's him! She gulps the diaphragm-deep breath she practised for Ding Dong Merrily On High a couple of weeks back.
"I'm really sorry Sir Paul, can I ask you a question? It's a music thing, not a", she flaps her hand, "mad fan thing".
He looks pissed off but manages to straighten up a little. She plunges in.
At our Singing Session on Wednesday
evening, we were in the middle of singing The
Sound of Silence when one of our ladies suddenly let out a yell and
retreated to a corner of the room. Somewhat startled, and with the rendition of
the song grinding to a halt, we looked down and discovered the cause of
her alarm - a large spider had taken up its place within our circle! The
spider appeared quite unfazed by us (unlike our member who, unfortunately,
is less comfortable around spiders!) and seemed either to want to join in
with the singing or to enjoy the performance. Perhaps spiders can sing? Who
We carefully removed the spider from the room and placed it safely, nearby, where it could continue to enjoy listening to us singing and could join still join in, if it wished!
We have a suggestion box where our ladies can add details of songs that they think might be fun for the group to sing. Perhaps we will find a note in it, written in tiny writing, suggesting something from David Bowie's album Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars!