Friday, April 16, 2004

Here Comes A Tenor

Cathy and I stood around a piano a few weeks ago and sang Down to the River and Pray, the old spiritual made famous from the Oh, Brother Where Art Thou? Soundtrack. They’re called The Singing Bullfrogs and their a nice group of mostly 40 and 50 and 60-somethings who get together a couple times a month and sing songs. For the fun of it! There are sopranos, altos and a highly unified posse of basses. They lacked only tenors, those brave and often male adventurers undeterred by the oftentimes fearfully feminized heights they’re so frequently asked to scale.

“I guess I can sing tenor,” I replied to the woman who was taking us through our parts and had asked, “Are there any tenors in the room?” I was the only one.

Nobody likes to be the single tenor in a room of strangers. Cathy, my heroic wife, bravely stepped forward and announced, “I can sing tenor!” So did her former boss. And then so did the dude playing the piano! We clustered together, a swelling of tenors, suddenly 4 strong and ready to play our role in the song’s harmony.

At the end of the night Cathy’s former boss said, “Let’s sing something we’ve already learned so those who here for the first time can hear.” It was a song that seemed vaguely, naggingly familiar, 3 or 4 overlapping parts singing, “Yes we do marvelous….marvelous….we do marvelous things.” Something along those lines. It began in a ramshackle sort of way, with folks casually sipping from their drinks or grabbing some cheese and crackers from the table as they nonchalantly sung their parts before it suddenly began to congeal and soar. For a couple minutes it all came brilliantly and irresistibly together. Everything felt briefly and giddily transformed.

“Oh,” I thought, “that was really great.”

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