Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Oh, to Sing ( reprise/revised/improved )

Our writing instructor gave us homework to write a piece about getting into an unfamiliar situation. A time ago, I had posted a story about my adventure(s) learning to sing. "Oh, to Sing," which described a situation that qualified as "unfamiliar." I revamped the post, brought it to class and present it herewith:

Oh, to Sing

"Ooooohhhhohhhoh … “ I struggle to maintain the pitch; I fail.
choir members are observing; there is muted laughter; I take this as ridicule.

“I think you should take voice lessons from me,” Jerry, my church’s liturgy director, said.

With that, a dream and a nightmare intersect …

I had never learned to sing but loved to do it. I particularly like doing it in Church; my wife did not enjoy hearing it.

We’d talk;
"No, I don’t know how I sound;
Yes, I realize I’m singing loudly;
No, I don’t know I’m off pitch;
Yes, I would guess I’m off pitch;
No, I don’t know what to do about being off;
Yes, I can read music" ( e-g-b-d-f for the lines and f-a-c-e for the spaces for cryin’ out loud! )
"No, I don’t know how to make my voice the same pitch as the middle line of the staff;"
( And, holy crap, yes, I know the middle line of the staff is B!! )

Sounding awful was not easy to admit; I thought voice lessons the solution. The hurdles were numerous, onerous.

I guessed lessons not cheap and we didn’t have much discretionary money. I used that to cover the real reason for hesitation: fear of failure. Admitting to a shortfall of cash was easier than admitting this!

After a meeting he and I were part of, I had the impromptu audition.
“I think you should take voice lessons from me.” Did I fail or pass the audition?

No matter. He saw my eyes widen and I heard and felt my stomach tighten and churn.

His, “Think about it; give me a call,” gave me time, but did not set me at ease. My knees became rubbery, my stomach hot as acid, my breathing as though a python gripped my chest; but I knew I’d take the lessons.

I had nightmares … a piano; Jerry at the keys; me on the other side; nothing else; big room; “Sing,” he’d demand.

Sometimes nothing, not even off-key. At others, the mournful bellow of a beached whale. Always, Jerry’s face taunted me. So strong was my fear.

As I knew I would, I eventually called: “OK, next Tuesday, 4:00, I will ask the receptionist for you.”

Walking up the sidewalk to the Church offices, I imagined the entire neighborhood looking, “Someone is coming for singing lessons!” I didn’t wonder how they knew.

I noticed that Rita, when ringing Jerry, “Walter’s here to see you,” failed to completely suppress a snarky grin. Or was that my imagination?

My nightmare was spot on; Jerry, me, piano, big room. Only I wasn’t tied down; Jerry neither taunted nor demanded. His face was kindly, suggesting my tone should go up or down to match the piano’s.

He didn’t like using the f- word ( flat! ). “It is so imprecise.” He used it anyway. “Yeah, that was … flat.” He’d stand at the keys when I needed to raise the pitch a little. He’d say, “Raise your eyebrow,” when I didn’t seem able to raise the pitch. “Raise two eyebrows,” when I raised my pitch but not quite enough. “Stand on your tip toes,” as I continued to struggle.

All this silliness kept me loose; the lessons highlighted my week; the work began to pay off.

It’s funny … very small successes seem very large in a brand-new endeavor. And they came. Matching a pitch; knowing whether I am low or high; knowing how to correct. Tracking changing pitches as Jerry went up and down the keys, sometimes covering more than an octave.  Even … yes … learning to correctly sing a song.
I sing more quietly in church now; more mindful, more respectful and Ellie doesn’t slide away as she used to.

I got feedback at the class ( nice story/great dialogue/good emotion/etc ); I am going to make it even better and post it again. Hope to hear from you about one of the versions.
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