“Weird Al” Yankovic has made a career out of mocking popular music and he’s great at it. I still remember the first time he twisted around a tune by Queen to come up with “Another One Rides the Bus”. Hilarious and very clever (and I still crack up every time I hear Freddy Mercury sing the “real” one). But what if it wasn’t a joke? What if he just didn’t know how the song went and that was a sad and uninformed attempt to sing it? For that matter, how would any one of us feel if we rose to our feet and removed our hats at a sporting event to hear:
“Okay, when loose be
Pie so lawns pearly white
Hot low grounded see mailed
Mat a nightlight pass dreaming”
Ridiculous, isn’t it? But it sorta sounds like our anthem and, if the singer spoke no English at all and just tried to wing it phonetically, that could easily be the result. I don’t know about you, but I think I’d be very disappointed that the singer didn’t take the time to get such an important piece of music right. Of course, it’s important to me and not the singer but hey, show a little respect. Take a minute to know WHAT the song means and exactly how it should sound.
Enter the Windward Choral Society and the 30+ languages and cultures that have been part of our performances over the past eight years. Some of those languages were beastly to sing and what was written on the page didn’t always match what it was supposed to sound like (if you didn’t do your homework you’d never know that the pronunciation of American Samoa’s Pago Pago should rhyme with bongo). Many of those pieces of were of great importance to their countries and cultures of origin and it’s always been our job to honor and respect that.
That’s why we attack music from two directions. Have you ever noticed how Susie separates learning the notes (singing “doo-doo-doo” or “la-la-la”) from learning the language (one syllable at a time)? We’ve also been fortunate to have a native speaker for nearly every language to really help us get it right (who knew that one of our altos – a Canadian – lived in Hong Kong and speaks fluid Mandarin? Shoots, I have enough trouble dealing with English). I’ve long been moved by the boss-lady’s efforts to get the words right and, just as important…no, it’s actually MORE important…to be sure we know what the words mean, what message the composer wants to give the audience. I guarantee that a native speaker of a language we are singing would be just fine with a little diction glitch every now and then if we sang it filled with the emotion that it deserved. I also firmly believe that doing so with sincerity and respect will offset any flaws (because there will probably be a few no matter how hard we try).
I’m also seriously impressed at the effort this group of singers makes to do exactly that; to get it right and to respect all of those cultures who have painted the world of music with such a broad and multi-colored brush. Our multicultural repertoire is one of the things that makes us who we are and how we deliver that repertoire has a lot to do with how well it’s received.
And of course, we’ll never be caught singing at a holiday show…
- “Fine screaming of a tight Christmas”
- “Pile see loam bore Christmas”
- “Fanta logs is humming through frown”
- “Dark the barreled main gulls ding”
- “Hit lame lacrosse a kid might beer”
- “Boy chew unfurled, a board list drum”
Okay, okay, I’ll stop. Sorry.
Aw, c’mon…just one more.
- “Tee fish moo a fairy Christmas”
NOW I’ll stop. Sheesh, I really am a twisted thing aren’t I? Admit it…you wouldn’t have it any other way.