Sing Along With The Earl
Don’t laugh, but I have gotten hooked on the M3 show “It Takes A Choir”. English choir director Gareth Malone comes to an economically depressed town and recruits locals to join a community choir, working with them for a mere week and then staging a concert. The choir members are reborn- it is quite amazing to see some of their reactions; people who haven’t experienced singing in a choir get truly ecstatic about it. And this spills over into their daily lives, changing their outlook on the town for the better. That is the magic of music – scientists have done multiple studies that prove the psychological & physiological benefits. Singing and playing is capable of easing depression, staving off senility, even reaching the imprisoned minds of autistics. I would argue that music is the first civilizing force of mankind. Hunting is done in unison by many animals, but the beating of bones and howling around the campfire of our remote ancestors drew them closer together in concert against the night and it’s demons.
I was fortunate when I was younger to have the experience of filling in for our church organist during his summer vacation. It’s a powerful rush playing loud hard rock, but that’s only volume. A choir and organ working together has an awesome punch that is volume combined with group dynamics. When my feet hit the low notes on the bass pedals, and the choir’s harmonies flowed up into the rafters, I got chills! (Don’t tell them, but I also managed to sneak in Uriah Heep & Procol Harum as Postlude music) Churches now turn the service music into karaoke nights, soloists without choir gowns, guitars replacing the organ, headset mikes, etc. They are abandoning the unity of the choir and that is tearing away at the essence of community that choral music creates.
The colossal ego machine of TV-land sells dreams of stardom, tells you you’re a ROCK STAR, you’re one-of-a-kind, here’s the spotlight!! Too common are the spoiled tantrums of celebrities who think that they ALONE are responsible for their success. To those who think that I say, there was a hand guiding that spotlight, someone switched on that microphone, and cued the music.
I was never interested in the Guitar Idol or Rock Band video games. Everyone kept telling me how it was “just like being in a band”– No. It. Wasn’t. You are two competitors in a game, out to score points and outdo each other, but a band is teamwork. I had this argument with a gamer guitarist I was playing with “But it’s encouraging them to want to play music”said he. No, it’s encouraging them to desire instant stardom and adulation, I doubt if the games foster the patience to practice, practice, practice and achieve that. Those games instead re-inforced the wrong attitude that music equalled ego, that musicians only play solos at each other until one wins (The worst jazz music encourages this too). The true joy of playing in a group setting is listening to the other players and adjusting your pitch, volume & timing to blend together better – to create something as a unit. I have always preferred dynamics to show off a band’s ability, over constant soloing.Faced with a drummer who did Keith Moon solo endings to every song, I made him do a fade-out to display control. Fed up with a guitarist who constantly lost himself in soloing when we were ready for the next verse, I would lead the rhythm section in stop-start cues and soft-loud dynamics to get his attention. At first he resented this, until he saw how it actually forced him into putting a period on his solo, instead of just trailing off into the vocals. Only guitarists enjoy “cutting heads”-trading solos to one-up each other. The longer that goes on, everyone else (audience & other band members) get bored – the best performances I have been to drew the audience in with call & response vocals (Gospel!), or had the audience sing the chorus, to make them feel part of the event. A fave concert memory is of the audience slowly dispersing after a Police show, we were all singing the Yo-eyo-eyo-yo’s of “Walking On The Moon”. You could hear it for blocks, fading off in every direction.