My Life in Song and Religion

I know my posts tend to be, “woe is me-ish”. but I’d like to hopefully depart from that… sort of.

I wish I could insert pictures, but for some reason that hasn’t been working for me of late. Pics seem to want to accumulate at the bottom of the post. I’d like to change my site photo, but I’ve yet to figure how to access that feature as well.

So, until I figure out the changes WordPress made two years ago, I keep posting, as is. I know I might start out sounding like I’m in despair, but that is not my intention. So, this post I hope will end up being a departure from that.

I survived my abusive childhood listening to music, you could find me singing out in the wilderness to my hearts content and at the top of my lungs. That’s how I got through life and interestingly it was enough to brighten my day and lift me up. I salute the artists who wrote the songs and the many artists who produced the many films I sought refuge in. In life, if you met me, you would not see a down spirited person. I’m always upbeat and cheerful. I used the tools and gifts God gave me and that is why.

Religion and church offered me sanctuary, a safe haven. Attending meant I wasn’t home and God was pretty neat to talk to. I prayed so much as a child. I was baptized Catholic only to have mother adopt the Jehovah’s Witness religion when I was five, I didn’t grow up learning Christian Hymns, but I love singing hymns. I didn’t learn those until I was in my 50’s when I joined the choir in Alabama. Southerners love to sing. In high school, I snuck out and attended the Catholic Church with my Catholic friends. Being a Jehovah’s Witness was not easy, but it provided me a place to feel like I belonged. The downside of attending the Catholic church then was that everything was in Latin, so not easy to sing to. I attended a Pentecostal Church once as a child when I was being babysat by a neighbor and that was totally different. I would go on to study the LDS faith. Church was my safe place and God my protector. Even as a child, I’d sit in a corner and daily, close my eyes, open the bible and point and that’s where my lesson or bible readings would start and I did this on my own. God and I were buddies.

When I was in Alabama, a friend I’d made there introduced me to jamming in country barns where all the farmers gathered with whatever instrument they played. Those who didn’t play, sang. Then she took me to a FaSoLa gathering. I guess knowing I grew up in California, she oughta teach me my heritage and get a taste of the south. Once a year in summer, there would be this remote, really remote church in the middle of nowhere, where followers would meet, some coming from all over the states and globally. FaSoLa, also referred by some as Sacred Harp or Shape Note singing, uses basically just those shape notes and it is acapella. The one in Alabama would take a whole weekend where everyone brings a dish for potluck. It’s very old timey and the origin of Shape note singing is heartwarming. Dang! I sure wish I could transfer my clips. No matter, check it out.

See: fasola.org/singings/

MUSICALS AND OTHER SONGS –

If you want to know my favorite songs and the early ones I remember singing often, were those that talked about escape. The Wayward Wind, was a favorite. I’d climb a tree and belt it out. Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Someday My Prince Will Come, Singing in the Rain, to name a few. I love the To Kill a Mockingbird soundtrack, as well as many animated Disney soundtracks. Soundtracks of the old musicals in general were so cool. Even if I didn’t know the words, I’d love to sing loudly with the one or two words or phrases and lines I knew well. Usually the refrains. Ever done that? I even sang to foreign singers such as Yma Sumac and Miyoshi Umeki.

I got a picture in. lol. A sunrise from my backyard Yay!

When Daddy had his electronic set up, I could sing using the microphone and blast the neighbors, when no one was home of course. I especially liked the vocal range of Yma Sumac and would challenge myself to mimic her songs and hit all those notes. I almost had them, but my voice was still young and I managed fairly well, but not well enough. Still, it was an outlet and it served me well in school, because I always got to do the solos, no one else could handle.

Rock songs were for fun. Musicals like Westside Story, with the typical youth misunderstood lyrics, were sad but catchy and passionate. South Pacific, Oklahoma and sadly, My Fair Lady were just a few I loved. I hate to say and wish it wasn’t true, but I’m horrible at memorizing words, so as much as I would have loved to sing professionally, I’d fail… but I follow along well. I can’t carry a tune on my own but I can read music, so if you give me a sheet of music, I can do it. Some people can belt a song out without anyone giving them that first note, but I can’t. Just so you know, I know my limitations.

If it was a musical, be it with Gene Kelly, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, Gypsy, Music Man, the King and I, Guys and Dolls, Meet me in St. Louis and Porgy and Bess. Summertime was a favorite and for fun, oldies like Oh Susanna! I can’t dance well, but I can pretend I do.

I remember once embarrassing the hell out of my step-dad when, after watching Westside Story, I was hanging out the window on a warm summer day, singing Officer Cruptke and shouting, “I got a social disease!” and summarily being yanked back into the car, not knowing what it meant, of course. I still get a chuckle out of that memory. When I learned what a social disease was, I too, was deeply humiliated. How could they put that in a song? I will admit, that even though mother was prone to much verbal abuse, my step father was much loved. To see him, he looked kinda grumpy, but when he smiled, it was like sunshine and even though we had a rocky start, he turned out to be a good guy. I can say I loved and respected him and even though I was, by then in my late teens, I at least had enough time to appreciate him and his endurance and care for mother, who was so difficult.

Later in life, of course there were many tunes that I took shelter in. Music and song are my sanctuary.

Phantom of the Opera got me through many a long trip, but didn’t show up in my life until I was older. My son, Ian and I would split the vocals. I’d do Christine and other female parts and he’d do the Phantom and any male parts. He has a beautiful voice. I miss singing with him. We used to have the best time in Alabama because people were always fighting over him to carry the tenors. I’ll never forget his first time, he sat with someone that was so flat, that he had a hard time tuning the poor guy out and we went home laughing so hard. He eventually got strong enough. Singing in parts is hard at first, but we both loved singing enough to give it all we had. It was fun.

I’ll never forget the time, I tried to keep from falling asleep while driving cross country by rehearsing songs from our upcoming Easter pageant. I’m singing at the top of my lungs thinking I’d stay awake. Trust me, it doesn’t work, you can sing while asleep. Unfortunately, it was raining and I spun out and ended up in a ditch. I remember facing oncoming traffic and thinking, “oh shit, I’m dead!’ as this huge semi, looking like it was coming at me, went past me. Nothing wakes you up quicker. Another thing, my life didn’t pass before me. No, it was just, “oh shit, I’m dead”. Not funny, but funny.

Today, I get lost in songs by Keith Urban, Ed Sheeran and yes even Justin Bieber. I love Maroon 5, the Weekend and have added them to the many old artists, I used to listen to. Peter and Gordon, Beatles, Elvis, Animals, Dave Clark Five, Petula Clark, Louis Armstrong and more.

For awhile I was collecting vinyls and one time I got the mother lode of vinyl at a yard sale, but before I could go through them, when I awoke the next morning, my grandson had already tagged the ones he wanted. Music has given me life, dreams and sustained me through three marriages, raising children, grandchildren and now three great grands. What’s interesting is how much music transcends our generations. It’s something we can all share and love.

Latest Great Grand, Jovi Olson and her momma. Like I said, I’m having trouble with photos, but pretend they are side by side, lol. SIGH… BTW, how many of us can say we looked that good after giving birth?

Yeah, I want to say, sometimes I sound like I live on the dark side of the moon, but truly I have a lot of good in my life. My life isn’t Donna Reed or Leave it to Beaverish, but I have great kids, siblings and family. Despite some of our rough patches, love does abound, we love to sing and dance in our own fashion and I’m grateful. There’s nothing like it when we get together and Tina tells Alexa to play 60’s 70’s favorites that we don’t all break out in song.

Is there someone in my life? Too soon to tell how that will work out, but who knows? I’m taking a page form my friend Caralyn of Beauty Beyond Bones who always says, “trust God” and how it got her through tough times and how, in so doing, she’s now got her happy.

I’m doing my best to “Be Optimistic”… and not be a grumpy – Another great song (Shirley Temple) did I ever tell you about my nice visit with Shirley Temple Black? And so it goes. There’s always going to be a memory attached, right?

I get much uplifting support from my fellow bloggers, some old, tried and trues and new ones now. I thank you all!

Try singing and I’ll keep singing because it’s how I get through the tough times. Try it!

PS

If you want to be inspired, try some of the songs from The Greatest Showman, I love A Million Dreams, Never Enough and well, all of them!!

The workman on my street, love it when I walk by belting these songs and Keith Urban’s Blue Aint’ your Color or Wild Hearts. They tell me I have a good voice. I guess anything they can hear over their jackhammers has got to entertain, lol. These are easy songs to download and walk and sing. I’ve been known to get a few Kpop tunes out as well. Free yourself up!

AADA- Acting’s Finest

A few years ago and I won’t name how many years back, but it’s been awhile, I was privileged to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

This was no ordinary school, I mean it’s attendees were such notables as Anne Bancroft, Robert Redford, Paul Rudd, Anne Hathaway, Kirk Douglas, Jessica Chastain and many, many more. See: https://www.aada.edu/alumni/notable-alumni#decade:all/orderby:all/display:panel

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We are here at AADA

 

I was honored to get accepted.  I’ll never forget the day I saw the ad in the paper looking for people to audition for the school.  I was in Grand Junction, Colorado at the time and the auditions were in Denver.  I applied and submitted my photo and they sent back what they wanted to see for the audition. At the time, I was 49 and I really didn’t think I’d be considered. After all, they  want young, fresh, malleable students, right?

For some reason, I didn’t let that deter me. So, I prepared my song and a monologue.

The monologue was from a stage play called “Judge Lynch”. I was this hillbilly redneck woman whose husband had just lynched a black man for a theft while the real thief was a white man hiding in their woodpile.  Very controversial piece and I put on the southern drawl and nature of the woman as I saw her.

The song I would sing was “Another Hundred People” from the stageplay “Company”.

At the time, I was associated with a group that had formed at a local coffee shop located in an old, downtown warehouse building. They were trying to generate traffic by putting on artsy events.

When I first moved to Grand Junction, it was shortly after a bust. A bust being where the town had vacated due to the oil shale companies closing down and everyone pretty much connected with it moving out or walking away from their homes. So there was nothing going on there.

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Singing Class

Those of us who had lived in bigger cities were hungry for something, anything to put the arts back into our lives.

So, this coffee shop put out a casting call for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and I auditioned.  I got the part of Nurse Ratchet and was so excited!  First rehearsal and only two -three people show up. We call the no shows and the next time we got a few more but missing others.  After about the third attempted rehearsal, the play was cancelled. So much for that.

However, we had others showing up who had not made the cut for the play and who kept coming to the Tuesday night meetings and from there we formed an improv group, did poetry readings and such. And through that I met a man name “Bob”.  “Bob” would have been the director of our play, and was no novice to theater and show business. It was he who suggested the song and monologue I would do for my audition.

Now “Bob”, not his real name, was obese. It was quite evident from the start that he was also extremely talented and smart, even if he was a bit brusque at times. Anyone who make a point of letting me know that I was meant for the stage, because as he put it, I didn’t have the boobs for film is brusque. The looks maybe yes, but no boobs.

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In Hollywood, actors Work to Live. She was an advance student.

In my opinion, maybe a long time ago that might have been true, but anymore now, no one seems to care. But, I still liked him. I just blew that part off. But that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, I went to his home, which he shared with his mother, to rehearse.  The first time I went,  I look for his mom, he said she was in the kitchen. He then proceeds to lead me down the hall and eventually to his bedroom.

Yes, I said bedroom, but that’s not the interesting part. It was the hallway.

The hallway was predominately filled with pictures of him with stars and performing in all these musicals and stage plays.  This guy had been a genuine Broadway star! It was hard to believe and yet I was fascinated with this man on the wall, compared to the man next to me, who in these pictures was a third if not one fourth the size was now and he was gorgeous. How did this happen?

I couldn’t help myself, I blurted out, “This is you?!”  He says, “Yes” and I say, “Wow!”, as he continues to nonchalantly usher me to his room.(Now you know why I didn’t use his real name) I never asked, “Why?”.

His room was anticlimactic by comparison. It had a small bed and lots of electronic equipment and a keyboard piano, which is where I rehearsed the song with the orchestral background and then recorded the background tape for the audition. This guy had tons of scripts and sheet music piled high everywhere and it made me sad. He may have been brusque, but he knew his stuff and I couldn’t help but admire him. I couldn’t feel sorry because he would never have allowed it and yet… I do wonder where he is now or if he’s even alive.

I still sometimes wonder what it was that happened in his life to bring him to where he was at that juncture. Yet… well, I’ll never know.

For the monologue, I would go up to Aspen to rehearse with another actor, who’d played a bit part in “Forest Gump”, and who it turns out had other things on his mind, so I finished rehearsing on my own from there on out. At least “Bob” was on the up and up.

Never the less, I made the cut and off I went to L.A.  What was nice is I had a choice of locations. New York or London.  I couldn’t really afford to go to either New York nor London, and even though a part of me really wanted to see those places, I chose L.A.

Another reason was because my grandmother had been quite ill and she lived there and I knew I’d have a place to stay with her, plus I’d get extra special time to be with her.

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The Mimes

It couldn’t have been a better choice.

Every day I’d get home, she’d ask me what I’d learned. She was so proud and protective.

One night I was getting ready to go to a party and she tells me not to take any drinks from anyone, because someone could put something in it. I laughed and asked her how she knew such things and she replied unabashedly, “I watch TV”.  In the meantime, I pooh-poohed it saying, “Abuelita, I am 50 years old, who’s going to want to lace my drink?”

Weeell, I never told her, but she was right. I don’t know how, but I had not even finished half a beer when I felt it.  If it had not been for me spotting a young student, only 14 who was in my class, with a beer in her hand no less, I might have finished that drink. As it was my mommy protective instinct kicked in and I gently imposed myself up on her making sure she didn’t finish the drink in her hand and that she got home safely. After I sobered her up, I called her aunt and uncle to come pick her up. She was a sweetie from England and was really okay with me interfering. However, had I finished my drink, it would have knocked me on my ass.

Ahhhh, “someone” was looking out for the both of us and No, I didn’t tell grandma.

Later, I would borrow some of grandpa’s clothes for my hobo dance and perform it for her. She just loved it! She loved for me to sing for her and never tired of listening even when she heard it over and over again. I think she had as much fun as I.

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Me, closeup

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My hobo dance group

Yes, I made the right choice. We got to have some special times together and I even got to take her to get her US citizenship, which she was so proud of finally attaining. She died a couple of months after I left.

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Grandma “Abuelita” becoming a US Citizen, what a proud day for both of us!