February 28, 2010

American Idol, gonna mess your mind

When football season ends, I don't despair in the same way I used to.  Because the Premier League is still going strong, and now I have American Idol.

It's a guilty pleasure, for sure.  I don't vote during the elimination rounds--no patience for it--but I do like to handicap the horses during the auditions and try to pick out the final few.  I picked Taylor Hicks and Adam Lambert, for example, as probably top-fours in their seasons, before they even made it out of Hollywood week.

This year, I have a new favorite who will probably not even make the top 12.  Siobhan.  Why?  Check out her tattoo.  That's right, it's the Gashlycrumb Tinies artwork!  And as you all know, that particular Gorey masterpiece was the inspiration behind my Unlucky 26.  So Siobhan, I'm in your corner, babe.  Call me.  If you win it all, I'll let you tattoo Marrow Manor on your other arm.

When I was in college, I actually had a pretty good singing voice.  I sang all the time, but only when I thought no one could hear.  I had no voice training, did not come from a musical family.  My instrument of choice was drum sticks.  Then, my junior year, I took a sight singing course and had a blast.  I was one of the better students, but that wasn't saying much, to be honest.  I performed better in my ballroom dance class, where, truth be told, all the girls wanted me as their partner.

Anyway, I digress.

At the beginning of my senior year, I took a chance.  The UC Men's Octet, a phenomenally talented and amusing a cappella group, was holding auditions for all parts (alto, tenor, baritone, and bass).  I grabbed the sheet music for the audition song ("Mood Indigo"), headed to the music building where they had rooms with pianos, and practiced.  I couldn't ever quite hit the higher notes in the tenor range, so I tried the baritone part.

The day of the auditions, I was thrilled to see that only the current Octet and about ten auditioners were in a small studio room.  No public humiliation.  My humiliation would stay private.  They were nice enough to ask each of us if we ever had any music instruction, so I was able to set expectations appropriately before even singing a note.

A few went before me, and man, were they good.  A tenor and a bass.  I knew I could never be as good as they were.  But here was my one chance to sing with the Octet, albeit only three of them and in a small room.  So I gave it a go.  We sang through it once, and I knew immediately I had started in the wrong key.  I never corrected out of the wrong key, but dammit I sang the right notes in that wrong key, and they were good notes, and my voice was smooth.

They were very kind.  The head guy said, without a hint of patronization, "I'm not sure that was exactly right.  Let's try it again."  This time I hit the right key and sang quite well, in tune.  Until the last few bars, when instead of the baritone harmony I sang the progression of the tenor melody.  If I'd had any remaining chance, I knew I killed it then.  Still, the guys were super nice.  They asked if I wanted to audition as a tenor.  I knew I wouldn't hit the high range, so I declined.

Listening to the rest of the auditions, I knew I was out of my league.  But really, I knew that going in.  And unlike so many tone-deaf American Idol hopefuls, music was not my life.  It just seemed like a cool thing to do.  I almost left before they announced the results, but I'm glad I didn't.  All the guys auditioning and in the Octet were beyond nice the whole time, encouraging and not the least stomp-on-your-dreams cynical.

To this day, I am stunned I even tried out.  But that's the only way I've ever gained in life--by stepping outside my comfort zone and taking a risk.  That one didn't work out, but I am so glad I did it.

6 comments:

jinksy said...

This plucked at every string of my baritone heart! Once bitten with the harmony bug, it never leaves your soul. The sad bit is, baritones need the other three parts before they can do their bit...

pacatrue said...

I tried out for my college's acapella group as well. Yeah, didn't make it. Sounds like we have similar voice ranges. I can't hit the highest tenor notes, but I can go lower than many tenors, but I don't hit the lowest baritone notes either.

Jane D. said...

Does that mean you are a barinor or a tenitone?

I suppose you have been cheering from the couch that the lovely Siobhan is still in the running.

Peter Dudley said...

Jinksy, ain't it the truth. Tenors get all the glory.

Paca, you have one thing big time over me--I don't think I'll be posting any of my current singing on the internet. You are a man of greater courage than I. (Greater talent, too.)

Jane: Yes indeed! The lovely Siobhan did a marvelous job with a fantastic song this week. That one note may keep her in next week as well if she doesn't totally bomb out.

I was impressed with the girls this week. Not so much with the guys. (Sarah, are you checking up on my gender references here?) And totally shocked at the two girls that got booted off.

pacatrue said...

Don't know about Pete, but I choose "barinor".

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