The Pure Unadulterated Joy of Singing
I have never been a great singer. Or at least I had been told as much by others.
As a child my Mum was quick to point out my notes were flat. Then as a teenager my dear friend, ArtHistorian, didn’t help matters when, during what was supposed to be a confidence-boosting lesson, she fell off the piano stool from laughing so hard at my heartfelt rendition of Singin’ in the Rain. (Love me some Gene Kelly!) Then more recently as an adult there were my KiwiBuddies who carried through on their threat to stop the car during a driving trip because I hadn’t heeded their warning to stop singing to the radio. I stopped singing and they pulled the car back onto the road.
And so I was left with a modest goal: to sing well enough to not annoy anyone.
The first singing teacher I approached was OperaDiva. He nearly crushed my fragile confidence by telling me point blank after a couple of scales that I was a no-hoper without a chance. “Give it up now mate,” he said. And while his quick condemnation of my vocal abilities made for entertaining cocktail conversation later that evening with friends – my voice once again the butt end of the jokes – a mate suggested I try another teacher. Reluctantly I agreed.
The difference was night to day. From the get-go my new confidence-inspiring SingingTeacher told me that everyone could sing – just that some, like me, had to work harder at it than others. The belief in me from another, however slight, was enough to swim against the tide of dissent I had experienced to date, even though I was slightly suspicious that she was just humouring me.
And so I started weeky lessons with my SingingTeacher in her apartment. Working to tune, refine and get a better sense of what my voice was capable by addressing things like breathing, raising my palette, getting the optimum mouth shape etc.
It wasn’t long before I discovered I could sing! Did you hear that all you naysayers? I COULD SING! I could hit notes. Sure I might have to concentrate a bit more than most people. Perhaps I would have to warm up more than normal. But I could sing.
I started tackling songs. Songs that I loved, songs that inspired. I went back and celebrated Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain, by nailing, then owning it. I even tackled ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ … long before Susan Boyle had us all weeping for the underdog making good.
There were times when my busy days left little room for an indulgent singing lesson. Or a bad mood had me second guessing whether I should even go. But I had made a commitment to my SingingTeacher and to myself, so despite the extra effort it took I always made it to my lesson prepared and on time. What amazed me was that I was always rewarded by a lighter mood upon leaving my lesson. I actually felt better after every lesson. Always.
So good in fact that I would sing loudly and joyously on my bicycle ride home (I figured passersby wouldn’t get too much of an earful if I was speeding by.) Letting the air rush over my vocal chords and making a noise that didn’t scare people (and me) was too addictive to not indulge in. It was incredibly freeing.
People would constantly ask me why I was taking singing lessons. What did I want to do with them now that I could sing? And for someone like my often too goal-orientated self it wouldn’t have been easy for me to try and qualify my investment and attach a goal to it. But for the first time in my life I did something without a goal, without an underlying aspiration. Simply because I enjoyed it.
No, I didn’t want to sing in front of anyone (and shyly I still don’t). No I wasn’t looking to get on stage. I was singing purely for myself. Purely for the fun of it.
I don’t take lessons anymore. But I still sing. I can manage the radio and not be offensive (but I have to concentrate). Most recently I climbed Sugarloaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro (but that’s another story) …. and halfway up the mountain, with a view across the bay and the mountains beyond I plugged in my iPod and sung loudly to my favourite songs. Was it noise pollution? Possibly. Did I care? No. I was singing for me, for the pure unadulterated joy of it.
To do or not to do? There is no question!: Ever had a hankering to take up a new hobby for no other reason than you’ve always wanted to do it? Can you find a spare hour once a week for this investment in ‘me’ time? I’ll bet you’ll be glad you did.
What have you done recently without rhyme, reason or goals – simply for the joy it brings you?
Recently I was reminded of the local talent that exists within in each of our towns, of people participating in the arts not for fame or fortune or some greater goal than simply expressing themselves in their spare time – I was mesmorized by the Vancouver Cantanta Singers.