Give Me Something to Sing About

I signed up for voice lessons at Conestoga College, in the continuing ed program. Although held at the way-far Doon campus, it was something I’d been wanting to do since taking a voice class in university. At that time I’d learned about voice resonance and projection, then promptly lost all ability to do that again, due to lack of practice. I wanted to get that back.

The class notice said to select one poem or song to work on during the 10 weeks. Now, you’d think that would be simple enough to do, but really it’s not. And it wasn’t so much that there were so many songs I wanted to try, and couldn’t narrow it down. No, it was finding just one suitable song that proved trying. Because there were must so many factors for possible dismissal…

Too high

I really love Tori Amos’ “Silent All These Years,” and the lyrics seemed quite suitable to a voice class. But that “Years go by, will I still be waiting” stanza? Forget it! I can’t sing up there.

Too low

I like a lot of songs sung by men, and even though I have a somewhat low voice for a woman, a lot of guy songs are just too low—“I Don’t Like Mondays” by the Boomtown Rats, “Accidents Will Happen” by Elvis Costello, and “For No One” by the Beatles being just three examples of great songs that force me to spend just too much time in my lowest register.

Too simple

Do you know that Sinead O’Connor’s “Emperor’s New Clothes” is built on exactly two chords? No wonder I can sing that one. But really, two chords? I don’t want too big a challenge, but that’s ridiculous.

Too intimidating

I love Queen, I do, and I’ve been singing along since their records since I was 12. And I was seriously considering “Bohemian Rhapsody.” No, not the whole 6-minute epic—just the “Mama just killed a man” part. Something of a challenge, yes, but actually in my range. The problem? Well, Freddie’s the problem, really. I mean, what will people be thinking about as I’m warbling about not wanting to die? Freddie’s beautiful, astounding voice, and how mine sounds nothing like that.

Those vocal shoes are just too big for me to try to fill. (Now there’s a weird metapor.)

Squidgy lyrics

“Oh Daddy” by Fleetwood Mac is kind of a cool song, singable range, suitably challenging. But after practicing it for a while, I was just getting weirded out by it. It’s about a woman apparently so downtrodden by her lover that she refers to him as “Daddy.” Ew. Can’t do it.

Incomprehensible lyrics

Wherein, after a few days of working on it, I had to conclude that I have no idea what The Pretenders’ “Back on the Chain Gang” is about. What did hijack her world that night? How were they cast out the past? (How is anyone cast of the past?) Who made them part? I don’t get it. And it’s really hard to get into a song you don’t understand.

Potentially offensive lyrics

“Hey, don’t look now, but there goes God, with his sexy pants and his sausage dog. And He can’t stand Beelzebub, ’cause he looks so good in black.”

Think those lyrics might offend someone? Maybe, huh. Which is too bad, because that Crowded House song is a lot of fun to sing.

And the winner is…

If it weren’t for the last minute, what would ever get done? The night before my class, I’m again rummaging through my set of sheet music, looking for inspiration. And I came across…

Once More with Feeling: The Musical Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Subtitle: Sheet Music Included

And so I was inspired. My chance to be Buffy, at least for 35 stanzas. After all, it turns out the my range is pretty much the same as Sarah Michelle Gellar’s. That can’t be a coincidence.

“Every single night, the same arrangement, I go out and fight the fight. Still I always feel this strange estrangement, nothing here is real, nothing here is right….”

Presenting my song in class

Admittedly, I was a little worried about what the teacher would think. Not every musical features a song in which one line is simply a drawn-out “Oww…” So when she called me up to work on my piece, I explained that my choice was maybe a little unorthodox. She said she’d heard of weird choices before. I pulled out the Buffy book. She said:

“Buffy? I love Buffy! I used to watch it with my husband all the time! They have a whole book from the musical?”

Truly, Buffy fans are everywhere.

We then worked on the song, I reminding her of the melody, she helping me reach the higher notes and hold the longer ones. At which she clapped her hands and said, “Cathy’s going to sing a song from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

To which I mumbled, “I thought I didn’t have to really sing in front of everyone until the last class.”

But if Buffy can die for everyone, the least I can is sing 35 stanzas. At least without actually looking at anyone in the class/audience, and getting the teacher to sing along with me.

“And I just want to be / A-live….”

Buffy from the musical

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