Nancy's been taking voice lessons for a couple of months (to extend the range of her already fine voice), and three weeks ago, her voice teacher invited her to a recital. Would I like to go along? Well, sure, why not? The Sunday recital was to be held in a charming old Catholic church downtown, sandwiched in between an all-day schedule of masses. How long could it be?
More singers than expected, actually, but each piece shorter than feared. On a scale of 1 to 10, the voices ranged--from 1 to 10. And they were scheduled just that way.
The first couple of singers were teen-aged girls, their tiny voices inaudible beyond the second row. One sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and that's where her voice must have been, because it surely wasn't anywhere around us. Later, in the parking lot, I heard her call her little brother: "Ralph, get over here NOW!" Every Ralph anywhere in the county looked up from what he was doing.
Each singer was a little farther from ground zero than the preceding one. Vocal skill varied hugely, but courage was consistent and heroic. Halfway along, a woman stood before us who must have been ten years older than I. (That would put her in her eighties.) Her glasses were almost comically thick. She held the music an inch beyond her nose. Before singing, she beamed at us, smiling enagingly and summarizing the flirtatious little French aria she was about to sing. As the piece went along, she swayed coquettishly, periodically lowering her music to beam once more, then putting her nose back in the score. Her old voice wavered and quavered, mostly hitting the note, occasionally missing. And she captured exactly the spirit of the joyous song.
A little later, a tall, sturdy young man gave us "Be My Love" with a force that had to be heard to be believed. Forget "baritone" or "bass": this fellow was in a category by himself : he was unmistakably a BELLOW. When he finished, Nancy turned and said something to me, but my ears were still ringing. "WHAT?" I asked. Two women behind me snorted in agreement.
By the time we heard the last three singers, my life had turned a corner.
For more than fifty years, I have loved vocal music and grieved that I "couldn't sing." Who knows where that idea came from? Certainly I had not learned to sing. So what? Here in front of me were ten or fifteen people who wanted to sing and were learning. Why not me? Forget the last three splendid singers, who were surely born with the gift of music and were making the most of it. I don't need a Cadillac. I just need an inspired mechanic to help me get this old machine running.
Blessings on every participant in that recital. May their vocal studies bring them much joy. As for me, I signed up for lessons with their teacher the next day.