Saturday, June 18, 2016

It's Time to Play the "Mystery Vocal Output" Game!

This one is for the singers!  Ever go to sing (especially at Holy Mass) and find out you have to "expect the unexpected"?

Today on my way to my Saturday afternoon (anticipatory) Mass, I'll be stopping at CVS to grab myself some Fisherman's Friend, the only throat lozenge that actually works for me.  Cough drops don't cut it for me anymore.  My singers keep a bag on the console of the organ (thankfully, our organ is in a choir loft).  I too have partaken of the cough drop bag on occasion.  But every now and then, my voice gets into that situation that only Fisherman's Friend will cure.

(Insert old school game show organ music played on a Hammond B3)
(Insert cheers and jeers from the studio audience!)
Thank you, thank you, and welcome to "Mystery Vocal Output".  As your host, I'm also going to double as your first contestant.  Panel, listen up as I tell my story.

Yesterday morning, I played and sang a 10 AM funeral Mass.  Something nasty got into my throat the night before, and I landed up rather hoarse.  I remember my soprano about a month ago in a similar situation saying to me, "I don't know what's going to come out when I sing".  The end result: she sounded on the most part fine.  OK, that was a soprano.  I'm a bass, but nonetheless...

While I was able to sing well on the most part, the mysteries happened any time I hit middle C or higher.  Though I'm a basso profundo, I can usually get to an E-flat above middle C with little to no difficulty.  E-natural can be an occasional struggle, depending on the hymn.  But yesterday, anything from that middle C and up, and you get that mystery.  The end result would be one of the following things:
- 1. I'll hit the note cleanly (the output I pray for)
- 2. I'll hit the note but sound raspy (not a rock and roll-like raspy, but a hoarse-like raspy)
- 3. I'll crack like a young boy whose voice is changing (or like Alfalfa of Little Rascals fame, whose voice cracked on just about any note at any time).
- 4. I might sound like Bamm-Bamm Rubble in this episode of The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show (CBS' Saturday morning early 1970's spinoff of The Flintstones, in which Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm-Bamm Rubble are in high school).

OK, panel, can you guess which result came when?

The weird thing is that the E-flat's came out fine.  I was choking at random moments on C, D-flat, and D.  Go figure.  For example, at the Final Commendation, I sang the customary I Believe that My Redeemer Lives by local organist extraordinaire Henri St. Louis.  Beautiful piece of music (in my snarky opinion), but not one you can transpose with any really good result, thus transposing was out of the question, whether from sight or the turn of a knob on the console.  So, I attempted it anyways, crossed my fingers mentally and prayed for the best.  Wouldn't you know: I sang the first half fine (and yes, I hit the E-flat fine).  However, in the second half, in the line, "but I myself will see him", in which the notes are A-flat (eighth), E-flat (quarter), E-flat (quarter), C and B-flat (eighth and quarter, respectively, slurred), C (eighth), D-flat (quarter), D-flat (half), I get past the quarter note E-flats without a hitch.  It was the quarter note D-flat where I choked; I then semi-recovered on the half note D-flat (which I really rendered as a quarter note and quarter rest).

And there you have it, folks.  The "mystery vocal output" mystery solved.  Grand prize: a lifetime supply of Fisherman's Friend!

Quod scripsi, scripsi!

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