Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I heard a great choral director once make the case for live music (as contrasted with records, tapes, CD's, peapods and similar reproductions) by saying, "Live music can actually change the molecules in the room."

Then last Friday, my voice teacher (how classy does that sound? "My voice teacher." Oh, brave new world, here I come!) testified that singing in fact changes the very cells in one's body.

That evening, Nancy and I went to a concert in which my teacher and six of her most stunning students performed. When I staggered out of the hall after the rousing finale (of which more anon), every single cell I possessed had been overhauled, upended, turned inside out, and rewired.

I emphasize that we're talking about much more than just having a buzz on because the adrenalin is up and running, although I acknowledge that a few well-honed high C's seem to out-do plain old caffeine by quite a few BP points. And as soon as I know just a tiny bit more about singing than the minus total I know now, I'd love to theorize about how making music in our bodies realigns those bodies.

But for now, let's talk about the adrenalin effect. The last number on the program called for all of the singers to join in a lusty rendition of "Oklahoma!" Of course this is OK's state song, currently being sung somewhere in the state about every thirty minutes, since this is Oklahoma's centennial year. You're likely to hear the anthem at the opening of laundromats and the closing of the daycare day, at the lowering of a new length of drainage pipe or the unearthing of the buried '57 Plymouth Belvedere in Tulsa. Any and all occasions are appropriate for belting out the great Rodgers and Hammerstein show-stopper. And on the occasion of last Friday's concert, every member of the audience apparently got at least a minimal shot of booster-juice, because we were all on our feet, joining the performers in affirming that "You're doin' fine, Oklahoma!" Yip-I-O-E-Ay!

And on the way home, all revved up (as the poor '57 Belvedere is, alas, never going to be), I got to thinking, "Does Oklahoma really have the very best state song in the Union?"

So, I Googled around a bit this week. Every state has at least one state song--except for that Charlie Brown of states, New Jersey. Massachusetts has seven--all unofficial. New Hampshire has two official and eight honorary. Pretty chauvinistic for such a minimalist state, I'd say. Virginia has only an "emeritus song." I love that way of saying that while they honor "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," they don't want officially to endorse its lyrics in the 21st century.

There are some surprises: I expected "California, Here I Come" to head the hit parade for the golden state, but no, their choice is something called "I Love You, California." (Ever heard it?)
And what about "Deep in the Heart of You-Know-Where"? Surely that's the state song? No, it's a thumping march called "Texas, Our Texas." (No hand-clapping that I could discern.) Never heard New York's state song either, but who can resist the marvelous Ebb-Kander salute to the Big Apple, "New York, New York"?

"Way Down Upon the Swannee River" is the signature song for--? Well, you probably knew, but I'd have never guessed Florida. On the other hand, Georgia (the other state graced by the Suwannee River) has a gorgeous song that feels just right: "Georgia On My Mind." Words by Stuart Gorrell, music by, yes, you've got it: Hoagy Carmichael. And finally, there are two state songs that I would guess most Americans have sung over and over throughout our lives, around campfires and on long road trips, in countries far from the U.S. or while looking into the eyes of our beloveds, without ever thinking of either Kansas or Louisiana: "Home on the Range," and "You Are My Sunshine." Anybody have a ukelele? An harmonica? I'll just whistle then.

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