OPINION

Country Roads… Oh, for singing out loud

Arvid Huismanhuismaniowa@gmail.com
Country Roads… Oh, for singing out loud

“The woods would be silent if no birds sang except the best.” I saw that message on a sign years ago. It was likely written by someone who can sing. I can’t.

Many people say they can’t sing. What they mean is they can’t sing like Elvis or Celine Dion. What I mean is I can’t sing at all. Period.

Oh, I could sing when I was a youngster and I did so with gusto. More accurately, I was unaware that I couldn’t sing. As they say, ignorance is bliss.

The truth hit me in the face many years ago when I was in fourth grade. Mrs. Nelson assigned each of us preadolescent little humans the task of composing a song — writing our own lyrics and melody.

Once completed, we each had to play our original composition on our Tonette song flute and finally we had to sing our new song into a tape recorder microphone.

My feelings upon listening to the playback had to be akin to those of the Elephant Man the first time he looked into a mirror. The Lord gave me plenty of volume but not a note of tone.

While I dearly loved music (and still do) my singing activities pretty much ground to a halt at that point.

For purposes of full disclosure, I must share my one and only public singing experience.

About 25 years ago I was in Rockford, Ill., for a three-day management meeting. On our second evening there our boss treated the dozen or so in our group to dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was one of those Japanese restaurants where the chefs prepare the meal in front of you.

I am not a drinking man but I do recall having two glasses of wine with my meal that night. I’m not fond of Asian food and, I suppose, I felt I needed moral courage to eat my dinner with a smile.

After the meal we heard music down the hall from the restaurant so our group headed in that direction. It was a karaoke bar and there was a good singer on the stage when we entered.

After a few minutes of listening my longtime friend and colleague, Joe, suggested that he and I participate. After some coaxing, I agreed. There were several karaoke performers ahead of us so we signed up and waited our turn.

Unfortunately, the singers ahead of us were good. Excellent, in fact. The act immediately ahead of us was a group of guys that sang Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ 1965 hit “Wooly Bully”… perfectly and with fancy moves. Before even setting foot on the stage I regretted my decision.

All too soon it was our turn. Joe and I had agreed to sing the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do is Dream.”

The lyrics appeared on the TV screen before us and the music began. Joe sang tenor and I sang monotone. Joe is no Elvis but at least he can sing on tune.

Now, for Joe’s sake, I don’t want to say we were awful but the rest of the folks in our group either laughed uproariously or hid their faces in their hands. Even the strangers in the bar wore grimaces on their faces.

When our “performance” was completed, Joe and I stepped down from the stage and joined our colleagues at their tables. Very little was said and I gathered from our boss that this event was never to be spoken of again. Ironically (or not) we never again met at that hotel.

Fortunately, Joe and I kept our jobs.

These days I limit myself to one glass of wine (if any) with dinner and the only place I sing aloud is in church. Then I sing only with the old hymns (those seven-word, 20 verse contemporary praise songs affect me like Asian food) and I do so very softly so I don’t mess up the singing folks around me.

The last time I actually attempted to make more than a joyful whisper was at the Presley Theater in Branson. In a pre-show hymn sing led by a talented gospel pianist, singers of many denominational backgrounds sang old hymns and gospel songs with gusto. It was an uplifting experience.

Most of the men in the group sang tenor, baritone or bass. I sang monotone. Loudly.