I always find it therapeutic to join in when Tina Turner appears on the telly, and thus I’ve just greeted Sunday morning with a full belt version accompanying Ms Turner singing River Deep Mountain High. Thanks goodness we have tolerant neighbours.
Singing, though, it’s a great thing, eh?
After singing at the top of your lungs, whether it’s in the shower or on the stage at Radio City Music Hall, it’s such a cathartic experience and leaves you feeling great. I hope it’s the same for everyone. Singing’s become very commodified and it’s felt amongst some people that unless you’ve spent amounts of time studying music or paid your dues on the stage that you rank lower in the singing pecking order than others.
Stuff and nonsense, I say.
I grew up in a family where the gatherings and parties centred on people doing their ‘turn’. Everybody had a song that was theirs and after a few drinks were taken in smoky living rooms, the first person would, after much persuasion and (false) modesty start up the singing.
I can remember my cousin George Burns gein’ in laldy (tr. giving it everything/big licks) with The Donkey Serenade, Auntie Mary would sing On Mother Kelly’s Doorstep or ‘Always’, my dad would – very occasionally – sing Chattanooga Choo Choo. Auntie Jean would sometimes sing ‘When You and I Were Young, Maggie’ and go all teary as she looked at my mum. Uncle Pat would sing ‘I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen’ to my cousin Kathleen, and after heaps of cajoling Auntie Mona would sing ‘Ave Maria’ in her warbly soprano. Oh and cousin Lily would sing ‘Ten Guitars’ and somebody would always have a go at ‘The Crystal Chandelier’ and the superbly maudlin ‘Nobody’s Child’.
My early attempts were well received, and I usually was rolled out to sing the top of the day’s hit parade ‘Two Little Boys’.
To us, singing was as natural as speaking. It didn’t really matter how good or bad you were, and if you were challenged tonally, you usually managed to develop a style that got you through. There were no stars, no divas, and if anyone tried to do one they were soon cut off at the knees.
These days, we don’t sing so much, which is sad. I love getting the gals in the office to join in a chorus – everyone always smiles afterwards and it adds a zing to the atmosphere. Maybe it’s the making of the noise as much as anything.
I remember the first time I heard a women’s drumming group – sure after five minutes it got a bit samey, but in those first few minutes there was sheer pleasure in the noise itself and I couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear.
Acknowledgement and kudos have to go to some people who are already working to remove the exclusiveness of singing today. In particular I’m thinking of Sidonie Henbest, Nikki Aitken, and Matthew Carey who organise the superb Cabaret Live that welcomes everyone who wants to get up on stage and have a bit of a sing. It’s on the first Sunday of the month at La Boheme in Adelaide and it’s a fantastic night of entertainment, always packed.
Luckily a lot of my friends are all involved in theatre or comedy or music which is fantastic because we probably sing more for pleasure than most other segments of the population. Some of them haven’t been able to do shows for some time due to work and family commitments, and it’s a shame to lose that joy that singing either by oneself or together with friends brings.
That’s why I’ve been talking to some of them about an idea for singing circles. It’s a bit like a book club, but instead of talking books we get together, have a few wines and have a bit of a sing. We could sing together or do a solo. We could sing songs about where we’re from, or from the latest releases, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not that there would be no stars amongst us – we’d all be stars. All ability levels welcome, and perhaps stories and poems too. It’s just a gathering and a chance to spread the joy.