Tuning In

Music is life, love and all that jazz. It is one of those things that commands my attention, refuses to be ignored, at moments takes over my life. Aside from nursing my piano pained wrists, strumming away on the guitar or uke, dunting the bass or trying (and inevitably failing) my hand at Helena’s drumkit, I love to sing. Singing is such a pinnacle part of not only my life, but a large portion of the family, its hard to even explain. I wrote about recently for Irish class. Inis dom faoi do caitheamh aimsire. Ceol, I wrote. Ta ceol suite sa theaglach, is amranaí me, mo bheirt dheirfiureacha, m’athair, m’uncail, mo sheanmhathair.. Ceapaim go bhfuil m’athair in ann gach uirlis ceoil a seinm 🙂 It was inevitable I would become addicted.

One of my earliest memories is from when I was two years old, standing in my hallway, a space of a few feet area between the door and the bottom of the stairs, singing into my dad’s empty microphone stand a song that didn’t exist with words no more complicated than “Yeah, yeah.” But this is how I learnt to sing, and before long I insisted at singing at every family gathering we attended.

I am thankful every day for the high calibre of music I was exposed to as a child. Of course, I had a Spice Girls obsession that to this day I am not ashamed of admitting to, but there was always something more substantial lurking in the background. The first real and proper song I ever learnt was Wonderwall by Oasis, while my dad played guitar and I mused on who Sally was. Then there was the Mary Black cd, whose cover I destroyed with dog ears once I had unlocked the secret of the printed lyrics inside. Katie was my obvious choice of song. My first public performance was Mr Sunshine, a song I learnt watching Barney, which I sang during a tune up at a Word for Word gig, in a bar whose name I could never remember, but which had a picture of a Guiness puffin on the outside wall.

6 years old brought about church choir, where I relished harmonies and 10 brought about Spotlight Stage School, where I fed my love of musicals. I adored the stage and applause, a by-product of the ballet shows I had done since I was four years old. To this day, I love the old buzz of appreciative clapping.

By the time I hit second year however, common sense prevailed, and I realised that singing lessons were necessary. My tone had started to deteriorate that year, or perhaps my ear improved, but whatever happened, I started vocal training and learned the joy of forward placement. Over the past five years, I have started to sound more like a grown up, like the soprano I strive to be. This is enhanced by the wedding singing group and of course, choir, which is often the highlight of my week and the single factor in over an octave of my current range. Yes, often one needs to step back and wince, as in Mass last week where I missed the same Ab twice within the space of 5 minutes, or when my music teacher recorded us on her old dictaphone and on playback, I begged the question “Ms, why did you ever let me sing?” 🙂

Now as I sit back to watch the X Factor in about an hours time, I prepare myself to avoid being the pedantic overly critical bitch of a tv companion I know I can be. In the audition stage especially, I could often be heard yelling, “Pitch…PITCH!!” at the tv. But I try and tone it down and remember: Song is not meant to be judged so harshly. Whether it be a perfectly pitched SATB choir, karaoke night at the bar or a little girl singing into her daddy’s mic stand in the hall, the point of singing lies in what you get out of it. One can find joy, solace, freedom. If music is life, love and all that jazz, then singing is its soul.


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