Monday, September 8, 2008

Performing, first in an occasional series

Those who know me know that I've had a history of performing, but do it quite seldom these days.

I'm something of a vaudevillian, more of a song-and-dance man. I have stage presence, a strong speaking voice, comic timing and a general comfort level on a stage. And a love of musical theatre.

I'm not a strong singer, so choose material carefully when I perform music - songs in my limited range, and that rely more on the 'acting and storytelling' and less on the sheer vocal quality. Those I can sell.

And I don't play an instrument, so must be accompanied by someone who can keep up with my eccentric and erratic phrasing. My musical ability is present, but limited - I understand, as a lyricist, how the words marry to the music, and how rhythms create different effects; but in terms of creating a full song, even in those cases when I've been able to work through a decent melody line and a not-bad chord progression, I still have to go to a solid musician and say, here's the melody, here are the chords, here's the feel and style the music should have - and let them go from there to play it.

All that said, I got on stage last weekend for the first time in a year, to host a fund-raiser cabaret. Many friends performed, and we had a whiz on the piano (who used to music-direct at a professional theatre). I sang a number of comic songs, including "Jaws" and "I Want To Be A Side Man" (by Dave Frishberg), "If I Had A Million Dollars" (by the Barenaked Ladies, which I sang with Cole Wheeler) and even adapted the famous Stan Freberg "Elderly Man River" sketch to perform with my son.

Towards the end of the evening I performed my own song, "Rumplestiltzkin: Dead at 95" which keeps turning out to be a better song than I thought it was when I wrote it. It's the songs you think about least that sometimes come out the best.
I get emotional towards the end of the evening, and it was difficult to keep my composure - I need to perform it more often to regain some control. But it was a heady moment. I'd love to hear someone else sing it live (there's a hired vocalist on the demo on my website), but it was an out-of-body experience to hear my own lyrics coming out of my own mouth.

The other treat of the evening was meeting noted comedic folk singer Deirdre Flint, who showed up to enjoy rather than perform. One of the performers sang her Bridesmaids Dress song, and Deirdre donated a couple CDs for the cause.

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