Believe it or not, one more of my talents is singing. I am not sure I have ever really talked about it in this blog or not, but if not, here it is…
I started singing at Temple Beth Ami in Reseda California at about the age of 8. I then carried on through high school, playing trombone and singing scat for an ensemble called “Grey Smoke”. The highlight of that stint was the late night jam session with Dizzy Gillespie one hot summer Tuesday night at Dante’s in Burbank. I did 6 months with the LA Metropolitan Opera (Wagner’s Ring Cycle, oy) understudying Donald and Fafner. In 1999, I hooked up with The San Fernando Valley Valleyaires, a Barbershop Chorus, and eventually created a Barbershop Quartet call SOAP. That all ended a few years ago and now I am back on the singing scene looking for a new quartet, but not just any quartet…
So here I am in Vegas looking for a place to sing (thank god Nancy enjoys Barbershop too) and I find the Gambleaires. Ok, they are not the best around, but they are very non-political, and that is exactly what I wanted to hear. So you can imagine my consternation when others tell me I am too good for them and ought to be somewhere else. Really, all I want is to sing and here is everyone else trying to make me political within the group.
Well, to make a long story short (yeah, yeah… too late) another group tries to recruit me to sing the tenor part for their quartet. One of the other members of the quartet is a known name to me, but I thought I made it clear that I wanted to sing lead and tenor was out of the question. I guess that message did not make it through because I get an email with tenor dominate part for their repertoire. I politely turned them down, after all there is a tenor out there for them, but it is not me. (Besides, any good lead can sing tenor, I just don’t like the range.)
But there were other reasons for turning down the role, and maybe they were more to the point than me just not wanting to sing tenor. The current lead sings very covered and they are shooting for a “swing” feel for their group. Swing requires a very clear lead singer, the other parts can be covered a bit, but the lead needs a clarion voice. In swing the lead is a soloist despite the idea that Barbershop is a quartet. So what is it, a swing or barbershop group? Mixed messages, not good. Also, one of the members is very knowledgeable about music and barbershop, but his coaching seems to take precedence over the learning and singing of the music. Seems to me that getting the notes and words sung correctly first is foremost when learning new material; craft comes after the group is singing the song with familiarity. Lastly, to be honest, they were not at my level of singing even with my voice being out of shape (although that will change quickly enough), not that that would have stopped me had they at least let me sing the part I wanted. At that point I would have hoped to shape the group a bit and get them to understand what jazz and swing is.
I will give them this, for the most part they were organized with a repertoire and learning tracks. But they were lacking decent communicates and that is hard to deal with too.
But for now I live with this truism; there is a quartet out there for me; one that will be able to keep up. There are three other singers who are relaxed enough to be able to enjoy the experience that I want to have (any they too hopefully). And when it comes right down to it all, maybe that is the real reason I turned this last group down, it would not be fun when push came to shove with one other extremely opinionated person in the group.
I wonder if the other guys in that group have figured it out… they are not going to get rich singing so it had better be a lot of fun to do, otherwise the effort is not worth the meager returns it may offer.