Monday, March 05, 2007

A thank you...I need to do more of these, methinks

Well, I humbly apologize for not writing this weekend. It's not like I didn't have the wherewithal to do so...all the internet stuff was on and copacetic at my house. However, I did the following this weekend.

  • slept
  • went to counseling
  • slept some more...basically from 5 PM Saturday evening to 8:30 AM Sunday morning
  • went out for breakfast
  • slept
  • cleaned up a bit in the living room and computer room

I had the TV on for noise at the same time, so I was MULTI-TASKING, folks.

I don't know why I didn't write...I'm sorry I didn't write. However, I guess that...well...I just didn't feel I had a lot to say. Also, sometimes when I take a couple days off from writing, I find that I have more food for thought when I actually write again.

(Do I sound convincing yet?)

Hahahaha...seriously...mea culpa, it's all my fault, etc.

Now let's just get on with it, 'k?

First, I have a new musical collaborator. Not a replacement for the ones I currently work with...just a new one. He's a drummer/piano player/guitarist. It's a nice trade off...I'm doing some voice coaching for him and he's trying to teach me how to play piano.

However, I feel he's bitten off more than he can chew...I'm not a good piano player. I never HAVE been. I consider it a public service if I DON'T play the piano, dig? I just can't make my left hand do what I want it to, and for the life of me I don't know why. I can type quickly (70+ words/minute), and I play saxophone OK because my hands are lined up differently than on a piano keyboard.

I appreciate good accompanists...there is no-one in the world I treasure MORE than a good accompanist. There are very few accompanists I really of them was my best friend in high school, Ann S. She was AMAZING. She was so versatile, and expressive. She didn't rock back and forth like a pendulum when she played, but she just got this look on her face that said (to me, anyway): "Hello, I'm not here right now. Please leave a message." She and I just had a good bond - I never felt like she was going to flake out on me. I was probably more "flake-worthy" than she, but we managed to work together quite well.

I've worked with others too:

(1) Even though I don't necessarily like the man, my high school choir director was a tremendous accompanist. He did teach me one thing...if something goes wrong, act like it didn't. Another student (I'll call him "A") and I had to put that theory into practice at solo/ensemble contest in 1986. Apparently, the judge thought the performance room a bit stuffy and opened the window for fresh air. However, he didn't account for gusty April breezes. A breeze came into our room while we were singing one of our pieces and BLEW the music off the piano. While our director was scrambling to pick up the sheets, my duet partner and I had no choice but to keep singing. He caught up with us, and we got through the rest of the song. We got a "I" (one) rating, with positive notes about "the show going on".

(2) My junior high choral directors. Between Mr. J and Ms. S, they were two great accompanists. I could say that it's because they're also great singers, but that theory can fall flat. But I'm getting off topic - Mr. J and Ms. S were really good accompanists, and they understood the art very well. Even though they were also good singers, they didn't let their egos get in the way, which is a big danger.

(3) The pianist in my big band, Denny M., is INCREDIBLE as well. It's amazing how you find people that are musical. They have these regular lives with kids/spouse/pets/two-car garage...and BOOM! They have this talent that could go totally un-noticed. Denny is from the same part of the U.S. that I am, so we have the same general outlook on life..."these Easterners are wacked."

There have been other accompanists as well who have been great.

  • Ms. R, an organist at my old church
  • Ms. H, ANOTHER organist at my old church
  • Ms. L, the current pianist/organist at my new church.

They're all dependable, solid as a rock...great players. I don't have room to write about all of them, because I wanted to get to this next guy.

This next musician is not a pianist - rather, he's a guitarist.

His name is Paul P., and he's a fellow Swing Time Big Band member. I met him when I first auditioned with the swing band, in 2001. At Ed H's urging, I put up flyers at the local music stores, and that's how I got the audition in the first place.

*insert flashback music/fuzzy flashback focus here*

I was really nervous. I hadn't sung with a band like this since high school, and was still getting my feet wet as far as my new home state was concerned.

At any rate, there I was, standing in front of a bunch of guys I didn't even know, and trying to work out a chart to fit my vocals. Nothing like a little added pressure, there...

I did my thing, and when I was finished and rehearsal was wrapping up, Paul was right there at my elbow asking for my phone number. I was flattered, but I have to admit I thought it was because he wanted a date. (Even though I was married at the time, I was still flattered.) I soon learned that his motives were different than I thought. I made the band, and the rest is history.

Paul and I started working together soon after I started with STBB. We got together whenever possible to work out a list of tunes that fit my voice, his playing, and made for a good program.

By spring of '02, we had a list of pretty respectable tunes put together. We've done a few fun gigs - not as many as I'd like, but enough that we all keep wanting more.

The thing about our musical relationship (meaning mine and Paul's) is that somehow we're always together. I might scare him to death by missing an entrance. He might scare me by forgetting to play a progression in major and making something sound like a funeral march. But somehow, someway, our twisted minds work together well enough to start and end together. Don't ask me how it works - I've often referred to ol' Paul as "the brother I never wanted - er, had."

I've had crappy accompanists too.

I remember auditioning for a show when I was a freshman, and the woman who was playing piano was just not comprehending the tempo I wanted. I kept giving it to her by snapping my fingers and she just kept missing the boat. Finally, I pounded it on top of the piano (it was a baby grand, I believe). She had that deer in the headlights loo, and now I know I was exhibiting diva behavior, but SHIT...I wanted my tempo correct. I figure that's not too much to ask, right?
(side note: this woman's husband was my divorce lawyer as well as my dad's commanding officer in the Army Reserve for many years. Small town connections - nothin' like 'em.)

For a little while in Iowa, I worked with a guy who was a good singer and a CRAPTASTIC player. Technically, he was fine...but his style, not so much. I threatened to break his fingers if he performed one more glissando. I realize now that was a BIT harsh, but you know what? I'd do it again.

Also (and I know there are plenty of singers who go through this) there are pianists who do not want to consider singers "musicians". They act like singers are nothing more than trained seals. To be honest, that's how it tends to work out, and it messes up the reputations of those of us who CAN read music and understand meter, tempo, key signatures, etc.

However, those of us singers who understand more about music's "mechanics" bear the brunt of those who don't. As a result, we have to deal with the pomposity of these people. It's very ugly. I'm fortunate that I've had very few of these to deal with, but the very few have been doozies par excellance.

But really, on the whole, accompanists are a special breed. I don't know how to express it in any other way but that. Accompanists don't get the glory and praise they should, and it's not fair. My favorite accompanists have propped me up when I goof, and they help me ride the wave when everything's flowing perfectly. I wouldn't be able to do what I love so much without them.
I guess that's why I am writing this essay today...because I want to say thanks to the people who help me do what I love most. I don't always remember to do so, but today, I will.

So thanks.