Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Show your talent

I went to a marvelous 40th birthday party for a Friend on Saturday evening. She hosted a benefit talent show at the meetinghouse for her birthday party that was simply a gas.

She started it off, singing One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man from Wonderful Town, and then Make our Garden Grow from Candide. G. has a wonderfully strong voice, Mermanesque in its purity and power but sweeter, and was perfect for singing Bernstein. (She also has a mellow, sexy voice suitable to a Minnesota Public Radio classical music announcer and host, which she also is.)

Lovely Wife was sitting elsewhere in the meeting room, and I didn't have to turn around to know that she was tearing up during Make our Garden Grow. I knew this not only because of the raw beauty of how G was singing the song, but also because I know that LW was thinking what I was thinking, which was that our first formal date was to Candide at the Indiana University Opera in 1987, and that that opera and that song have had special meaning to us ever since.

G. was followed by T., a 9-or-so year old girl who played a half dozen traditional American fiddle tunes on her half-sized violin. Her teacher uses the Suzuki method but is teaching fiddle and dance tunes instead of the more classical oriented tunes used by most Suzuki teachers. Little T ended each of her tunes with the familiar shave-and-a-haircut. . .two-bits tag. She did beautifully and had great poise and presence.

I followed by reading Billy Collins' poem Forgetfulness and then singing Mike Cross's The Scotsman, a kind of a novelty, jokey song that immediately came to my head when G asked me to participate, and which I couldn't shake.

Then came M who played a beautiful piece for flute by Claude Debussy on her alto saxophone.

Finally was the most novel and entertaining act I've ever seen that didn't involve a chainsaw or lighter fluid: A man played a Sousaphone and tap danced. At the same time. (When I saw him come to front of the room, I was reminded of the George Booth cartoon in The New Yorker showing a one-man band -- a fellow with a bass drum, cymbals, washboard, kazoo, etc. -- standing in a library, looking at a book. One librarian is saying to another one, "Well, so far his behavior has been exemplary.)

He then played Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (which he said he thought should have been either "Gee-su joy. . ." or "Yay-su yoy . . ."), playing the base line on the tuba while simultaneously humming or singing the tune to the soprano line. It had the effect not unlike the throat singing Tibetan monks who sing two notes at once. He ended his part with a similarly wonderfully funny version of Stars and Stripes Forever with the tuba doing the oom-pah and his voice approximating the piccolo part. Amazing.

Following the performances, we heard from another Friend who gave a brief presentation about Rainbow Rumpus, an on-line magazine she founded "For Kids with GLBT parents." I've been reading Rainbow Rumpus with infrequent frequency over the past year and have been impressed at its range and quality. I hope you'll check it out, and refer your friends to it.

G said her idea for this kind of a party came from one I did for my 48th birthday a few years back, which was in turn based on Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Community Readings project when he was poet laureate of the US. Another Friend is hosting a similar event this coming Saturday for his 80th birthday. This is a very simple kind of event to organize, people love them, and it builds community and stories for years to come.

1 comment:

anj said...

Paul - My husband and I have been trying to come up with a party for our neighborhood that is a bit different than the usual social gathering. An idea such as this is just what we were looking for. Thank you for blogging this. And, by the way, my nephew makes his living as a buskar who plays a guitar, an accordion, tap dances, sings, and rides a unicycle. You can guess which ones he does simultaneously.