A-hem. Mi-mi-mi… do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do… la la la… ♪
As anyone who has ever had the misfortune of standing next to me during a celebratory round of "Happy Birthday" can tell you, I can't sing. I should be more specific. Of course I can sing, everyone can sing – it's like Neil Diamond once said, "even frogs can sing" – I just can't carry a tune. And unfortunately for those around me, I can't even tell when I'm out of tune. Truth be told, in my head, it actually sounds pretty good. But I know it's not. I've been set straight on this more than once.
The first time this… let's call it… flaw of mine was brought to my attention I was nine years old. To make it a little more dramatic I should say only nine. I tried out for the 4th Grade Kids' Choir and didn't make it. Doesn't everyone make it when you're in the single digit years? Nope. Okay, so I wasn't good enough for a choir.
Then, sometime in what were probably my tweener years, at church one Sunday, during worship, my mom leaned toward me and whispered, with a gentle pat on my shoulder, "Not so loud, Honey." Whaa? In my defense, hymns are tough, aren't they?
In my senior year of high school, I was cast in our production of The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd. A musical. You're probably thinking, "How can this be? You said you can't sing." Well, let me tell you. Evidently, being a senior carried a little more clout than being in 4th grade. Also, I was only in the chorus. For the most part I kept my voice low; but, since I was a senior, I was given one line in an ensemble number that I had to belt out. One line. One. How hard could it be? After weeks of rehearsal Miss DeGeorge gave up on me and simply said, "If you can't sing well, sing loud." Okay, I could do that. (Side note: I don't subscribe to this anymore. Now I say, if you can't sing well, lip-sync.) There were people in the back row wincing as I informed them that "Blue is the color of the sky in summertime." Some student even took out a booster in our Senior Farewell paper just to say I, and let me quote it, "couldn't carry a tune if it was put in a bucket." Nice, huh? Well you know what they say – truth hurts.
So here's the deal. I don't really sing in front of other people. I don't want to be responsible for making anyone's ears bleed. My poor little cat Izzie, when she was alive, was always an indicator when I'd go out of key. I'd be singing my heart out while listening to music and whenever I went off key, she'd peg her little ears back and meow. I'd stop, of course, look at her with a raised brow and ask, "Bad?" She wouldn't respond but I knew the answer.
All these incidents bring to mind an audition episode of American Idol that I saw years ago. I don't watch this show, but I was visiting my folks one night who do. In this particular episode one contestant proudly (I dare say she was beaming – didn't seem nervous at all) sang her song. All the while I was thinking to myself that she wasn't very good, but what do I know. As the cameras panned over to the judges, their expressions were hard to read. They looked… stunned, maybe. I turned to my parents and asked, "She wasn't any good, was she?" to which they responded, "Good Lord, no, she's awful. Simon's going to destroy this one," they added. He didn't.
He was slow to speak at first, his words measured as he asked her if she ever sang in front of anyone before. When she told him that she sang in front of her family all the time, he seemed to take a beat as he grasped the weight of her response. "Really," he said, "and what do they say about your singing?" When she told him they say she sings great and encouraged her to audition, he simply corrected her and said – I'm paraphrasing – "You're not great. In fact, you're terrible. I don't know why they'd tell you to come here." He was not malicious. He seemed genuinely addled.
This girl ran out of the room crying – no, wait, sobbing. Her mother, wiping away her tears, said Simon didn't know what he was talking about, she was a wonderful singer. I looked to my mother (the non-sugar-coating variety) and asked, "Why would that woman do that?" The girl clearly could not sing – even tone-deaf me realized that. I think it's just another example of the participation-trophy, fragile-esteem-boosting philosophy that is ruining our children.
So what's all this leading to? Well, I've been confronted recently by a similar version of this American Idol wannabe. This version obviously hasn't ever come across a strict choir leader, or a matter-of-fact candid mother or even a hurtful anonymous booster writer to alert her to her lack of ability. No, this one is pretty much just like the auditioning chanteuse who's lied to by her family. There is a young girl who sits behind me in church who is so off key that I can actually hear how bad it is – it's like a pinprick to the ears. I feel like Izzie as this girl screeches out the lyrics. She sings (using the word loosely) above the whole congregation, her voice scratchy and cracking as she yells out the words. I'm not kidding. There are times when she is literally yelling.
Our worship team plays contemporary Christian songs – these aren't traditional organ-accompanied hymns. The music is modern and fairly loud which, of course, I like. I sit in the front row and can sing moderately without anyone hearing me (read: without offending anyone). This child has made me, decades later, finally appreciate my mother's words of counsel (Not so loud, Honey). I wish her mother would say something. This one even sings along when someone in the worship team is singing a solo – a solo! By definition, there should be just one. I don't know why her parents don't intervene or enroll her in voice lessons – something. And I don't mean to judge – we're kindred spirits in a sense – but it's very distracting.
Modern day, over-the-top, sensitive esteem issues aside, someone could explain to this girl that even the angels in heaven sing together, as one – they do not yell, they blend. I'm sure some aren't even singing, I mean, some should be playing harps, right?