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POETRY THURSDAY
I played clarinet for 3 months when I was in the 5th grade. My big hit was Mary Had a Little Lamb. I remember the smell of the clarinet case and the way you had to suck the reeds to get them moist before you played. I don't remember now why I didn't continue with my lessons, but that 3 months was the only formal training I ever had in playing a musical instrument...apart from my voice. I suspect my mother would have loved to have given us the chance to take piano lessons, but being in a military family where you move every few years made owning a piano prohibitive. I started in choir when I was 13 and for 3 years in high school I sang in 3 choirs: the large assembled school choir, a select Ensemble group that one had to audition to get into, and The Messengers, a non-denominational youth choir sponsored by the base church.*

I didn't sing during the 4 years of college except alone by myself under trees and in the shower and on road trips or with friends, but once I had moved to Chicago I spent some time trying out choirs again. I found a women's choir that I liked but ended up only participating for about a year before other interests took over my time and energy. There was a long hiatus from singing again, and despite performing at family weddings and my grandfather's funeral over the years I didn't find another choir for ages. After we moved to Sweden, and the kids were born, the inner pressure to begin formally singing again mounted until I couldn't bear it anymore. I joined a church choir but with Karin still a baby, and a demanding one at that, I discovered that I really wasn't able to keep up with it, and I didn't seem to be in the mood for all the other stuff that goes along with being in a church choir. But it whetted my appetite and I spent the next few years thinking about it and yearning, and keeping an ear out for news of a choir that would fit my lifestyle.

Cut to 3 years ago...the kids were old enough that I could finally see my way to spending more time for myself. I had recently begun finding my way back to the person I once was, back to art and writing and music. A friend told me about a women's choir in Malmö and I decided to tag along. Now, once again I can't imagine my life without music, and without singing. Even though our weekly practices require a major commitment in time and gas money, they're worth it and I get such energy out of singing together with this group of wonderful people. But there is still a small part of me that wishes I HAD learned to play an instrument and kept it up. I know that I won't take time to do it, not now anyway, maybe some day.

What I like best about this poem is that it makes it so clear that your music comes from within and that you pull it out and sing it to the world around you. Word play, language, music, melody: this one works best if you read it out loud. Or sing it, whichever. :)

Player Piano
by John Updike


My stick fingers click with a snicker
And, chuckling, they knuckle the keys;
Lightfooted, my steel feelers flicker
And pluck from these keys melodies.

My paper can caper; abandon
Is broadcast by dint of my din,
And no man or band has a hand in
The tones I turn on from within.

At times I'm a jumble of rumbles,
At others I'm light like the moon,
But never my numb plunker fumbles,
Misstrums me, or tries a new tune.

***

More Great Poetry over here!

*military base, in case you were wondering
 enthralled
mood: enthralled
music: Michael Penn—This And That


Comments

I'm so glad you returned to something that felt so good. I'd love to start singing again although I'm sure I'm not as good as you are. I also love what you said about the clarinet. I also played in 5th grade and it does have that smell! I can also taste the reed now too.

I'm glad I did, too. Even though sometimes the drive and the time commitment make me want to step down, I know it's something that I NEED to feel whole. I hope you'll think about starting singing again, I'm a firm believer that singing is good for everyone! And it doesn't matter how "good" you are. :) I don't consider that I'm THAT good at it, especially nowadays as my voice has aged along with the rest of me :)

Hm, after playing the saxophone for 20 years (!), I no longer reflect on how the reed tastes. Except for when it is brand new and tastes of fresh bamboo (or whatever grass it is made of), it doesn't taste much at all. Not even when they get old and murky, they smell or taste particularly bad. Rather they get unresponsive and has a coating that you in case of emergency can scratch away with a knife, nail or what you have available.

I did at one point borrow a tenor saxophone that had been stored in some basement for 10+ years. That horn and in particular the inside of the case had The Smell. Not so I broke out in hives, but very strong and unpleasant smell.

I didn't mean it's an unpleasant taste but even a brand-new reed has a taste. Perhaps you've become accustomed to it by now. I only played for a few years but I did buy new reeds and they always had that slightly wooden flavor. That tenor sax sounds like it was a bit gnarly.

There is no greater place to hear the majesty of all the entwined voices of a choir than right in the middle of it. I loved it too, and I maintain that it's the superior instrument because it's always there, and it doesn't take up any of your carry on luggage! I've considered rejoining an adult choir, but just can't find the time with classes and work.

Some day you'll have time again! I know exactly what you mean. :)

(Anonymous)
Poetry Thursday

Great poem, love the assonance and onomatopoeia. What a weird sentence that is!

twitches

Re: Poetry Thursday

yay for weird and wonderful words! :)

(Anonymous)

I'd love to hear you. That's one of the things that bums me out about only "knowing" someone via the web. I imagine how you sound--and I'm jealous. I'd LOVE to sing like that!

Oh, it's so true! So many things that we're missing out on because we don't all live in a big communal house/neighborhood! But just think, we'd never even have come this far without the great web :)

(Anonymous)

I only played the flute when I was little. In glorious "kommunala musikskolan". I played a couple of years actually but then I lost interest. I did want to learn to play the piano but since we couldn't afford a real piano at home I could never go - I had an electrical organ but that was not enough. And to play the piano was my own wish - something I wanted to do myself. Too bad I could never do it. The flute thing was more like I was placed in "musikskolan" and happened to find it a bit fun...

I have always loved singing (not that I am any good), and the school choir was the best. We didn't have to audition for it, anyone who wanted to be in it was welcome. Which is good, because I would probably never have passed an audition! :)

Nowadays I sing in "Kör för alla". A choir open for everyone too - in fact you are SUPPOSED not to be able to sing to join it! They also teach singing technique at the same time and "transponerar" the songs to lower keys that most people can sing. Because most of the time songs are written too high for average untrained people, making them believe they can't sing when in fact they can in the right key for them. I like this choir because it is not pretentious or about perfection. It's simply about enjoying the fun of singing and music. What it sounds like is less important - it's the fun that matters. :)

(And we will be singing on Stefan Sundström's next album. A song he does together with Laleh! He came to us as a guest artist once and was so impressed that he wanted to use us somehow. This spring he came to choir "practice" and recorded us. Sounded great!)

Loved the poem!

/Mia

http://mias.blogg.se


That is so cool! There should be more choirs like that, everywhere in the world. You are right that a lot of people think they can't sing, when in fact with just a little encouragement they would discover that they can. Singing is so great for you, body and soul. :)

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