The Vocal Aftermath


I have yet to practice today. I have yet to dig my voice up from the nether world of post-cold post-nasal drip waste land. Which seems so a propos, looking at the aftereffects of the snow storm last Sunday. Yeah, that car, unrecognizable under a pile of snow, that's my voice, only the side mirror peeking out. Well, maybe, if I'm lucky the sun will shine down my throat and thaw my vocal chords from their paralysis and the general feeling of "Wha...?", so that I can swing by my husband's gig in Brooklyn tonight and sing and swing a little bit and start feeling like a vocalist again. Now, wouldn't that be lovely...

Merry Christmas to the dead and the living

For years after my dad passed Christmas Eve was the day when, after all the joyful prepping, decorating, gift wrapping, praying, eating, singing, and (it's TRUE!!!) walking to church for Mette in the snow with a lantern, we would stick a three-foot high Christmas tree on his grave, and, after several sometimes vain attempts of lighting the candles in the nightly wind, stand in silence, while my mother quietly cried into her handkerchief. Those moments were hard. Especially the closeness of pure elation (I particularly loved singing "Stille Nacht" in the darkened church) and deep, gut wrenching sorrow. But it was all part of the ritual, including my father's siblings who would join the circle, each armed with their very own handkerchief to weep into. Only after a decent amount of mourning would there be the acknowledgement of the person next to you, the aunt, uncle, brother, sister.
But it had to be done. It was part of the ritual, the inclusion of the dead in the celebration of the living. "Merry Christmas" was said at the end, over and over, like a mantra, until we all dispersed back to our warm houses, leaving the dead behind, but still putting a candle in the window, so they too might find their way home.

I Miss Christmas

I miss Christmas. The old one that I remember from child- and young adulthood. The rituals (as Catholics we would fast until about 4pm in the afternoon, someone had to get the Light of Bethlehem from the church, the tree needed to be done up, etc), the cooking, the praying (my grandmother admonishing us for being simply unable to keep it together and giggling incessantly during the rosary - but only because she SNORTED!!!), the singing in front of the tree, lit with REAL candles, and, yes, the gifts. All of this does not exist anymore for me. Now all I see is the machinery that tries to make us believe our loved ones only know that we love them, if we buy them large and expensive gifts. The Christmas redux that I see all around me, starting with the nauseating loop of the same 5 Christmas tunes in every store I enter (essentially since November 1st) that is supposed to get me in the mood to spend money I don't have for stuff I don't think anybody needs on a holiday that has nothing to do whatsoever with increasing my credit card debt. So, what gives? What does this time of year mean for a recovering Catholic with an aversion to cultish behavior of any kind, especially of the monetary variety? I like to think it means bringing a bit of light into each other's lives by letting each other know that we are THERE for each other. Especially when it's cold and freezing out and we might have another 3 months of this lying ahead. So, no, I won't go and plunder my account to satisfy societal mandates. I will however write cards and call my friends and family to let them know how much I love them. And yes, there will be a tree, because it gives us joy. But alas, no real candles.

Citizenship

160 people from 57 different nations were gathered to become American Citizens. There was a lot of waiting involved (about three hours of it), the lint from the rug crept up my shiny new black boots, we had been relieved of our cell phones and cameras - for security reasons - ah, security, following me everywhere. In the end, the judge came and spoke, we pledged and we swore, and I must admit, that I got just a little bit choked up. I know I know, all you cynics out there: as Craig Ferguson would say - I await your letters. Trust me, I am fully aware of the flaws of this country. Just like any other democracy, this one has a slew of problems to contend with, a mountain of issues to solve. And there are many things I do not like about the election process OR the politics here. (the strange extremism blooming on both sides of the aisle? the aisle? the disregard for the need of solving some of our bigger problems right now and the tendency of pushing solutions back until after the next election cycle? want me to go on?) BUT I have found that a lot of good is to be said about the constitution and its amendments, on which this country is based. The rights and freedoms of its populace. Having studied for my citizenship test (and unfortunately forgotten many a fact already due to early onset dementia, no doubt) I have learned to appreciate the ideals this country is based on. Those ideals I can appreciate. 57 nationalities in one room, being sworn in as American citizens. Somehow, that gives me hope.

One Word At A Time

A student asked me the other day how she could go about interpreting a song. She felt overwhelmed and disconnected from the material, kind of like a tiger jumping through hoops, getting caught up in the "how to" of it and losing sight of the "what" or "why".
After having worked on vocal technique with her for over 30 minutes and starting in on the "song" part of the session, I asked her to step away from whatever it was she was trying to do. No adding to, no taking away, no "interpreting" or "acting" of the lyrics. Closing her eyes she sang the song we were working on one word at a time, without any emphasis on anything other than that one word, followed by the next word and the next. Allowing each word of a lyric to come to her instead of rushing towards it and trying to mangle it into something it wasn't, the song became her song. It became simple, effortless. Free of judgment and deeply personal. It moved me. And made me think about all the preconceptions, judgments and interpretations we carry around in our minds every day, towards every person we meet. Even every task we are supposed to perform. Maybe focusing more on just the next "word" might be a nice exercise for a day or two, just to see how it feels to walk around without allowing the constant monologue inside our brain to dictate how we feel and see the world.