Power of Human Voice – Eddi Reader and the Scottish Parliament


Eddi Reader is one of my absolute favorite pop singers. Born and raised in Scotland, she was a member of the band Fairground Attraction before striking out on a solo career. One of the high points of her album output was 2003’s Sings the Songs of Robert Burns. Reader sets some of Scots poet Robert Burns’ poetry to music, including such old charms as “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose,” complete with her usually well hidden Scottish brogue.

The final track on the original release is the New Years chestnut “Auld Lang Syne.” But she sings it with a different melody than we in the States are used to hearing. Pardon the quality of the recording, but here is Eddi Reader performing “Auld Lang Syne” for the Scottish Parliament in 2004, where Burns is considered a national treasure.

And to all of my friends and colleagues, Happy New Year to you and yours!

The full lyrics to “Auld Lang Syne”

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

We twa hae run aboot the braes
And pou’d the gowans fine;
we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot
Sin’ auld lang syne

We two hae paidled i’ the burn,
Frae mornin’ sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne

And here’s a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine;
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Christmas Eve Music


My wife Katherine and I were asked to sing at St. Mark’s ELCA Church here in Charlotte for Christmas Eve, and since we have not gotten many opportunities to sing in the same room recently (we have to work on this!), we gladly accepted. I am waiting for the videographer to post her stunning rendition of “Gesu Bambino” by Pietro Yon, but I will share my “O Holy Night” and “Some Children See Him.”

My own beliefs have changed over the years, but Christmas music still holds a special place in my heart. Hope you enjoy them, and I will definitely post her video as soon as I have it! Thank you to Les Ackerman for inviting us to join the wonderful men and women of the choir to sing with them on a special night.

Power of Human Voice – Your Gifts


The last few weeks I have posted a “Power of the Human Voice” post, spotlighting some vocalists and performers that I thought I wanted to to share. This week, I’m going to take a slightly different tack.

One of the many things I see suggested to beginning voice talent is that they volunteer to read for the blind. Organizations like RFB&D help create and distribute content to those who cannot read or struggle to do so through no fault of their own. For the voice artist, it give you the chance to work on your chops, your characterization and your endurance, as well as giving you a chance to give back to the greater community.

I have not done this, but I wanted to let people know that what you do can have an enormous impact on people you don’t even know. This came to mind after an event I have been involved in the last few years. Here in the Charlotte area, The Havens, an Alzheimer’s and dementia home for the elderly, has asked me to come in and sing Christmas songs for the residents for the past 4 or 5 years. If you haven’t experienced what being around Alzheimer’s patients is like, it can be heartbreaking. Many times they move around in their own haze, or not at all. Even with the caring staff around them, they can be unresponsive. Those who are responsive often struggle to make sense of things around them, and comments can come out of the blue. One year I sang there, a little lady very earnestly discussed her little dog with me for 3 minutes, and abruptly turned away to speak on some new topic with a neighbor.

However off-putting it may seem to be, I try to make sure to do it every year. Because for those few minutes  that I sing for them, I can see the impact for many almost immediately. Some sing along lustily, some merely murmur the words. And some just cry.

When I sing for them, I have learned that the most important choices I make for music are the ones that bring them memories. No unique Christmas tunes here: “White Christmas” never fails for the good people in the Havens. “Winter Wonderland,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and more of the all time favorites are the way to go. And I hear it from the families who come year after year that they appreciate having Mom or Dad hear those old songs at this time of year.

This is the impact you and your voice can have on those who need it the most. As a voice artist, you are already used to not having people leap to their feet in applause after your finest performance. Keep in mind that sometimes what you do with your voice affects people in very small, but still very important ways. Reading for those who cannot, singing for those who need it most, using your gift in the finest way possible. Especially this time of year.

So go ahead and start doing some reading or singing. For you, because it is always good for your soul. And for the people who need your gifts. Even those who cannot tell you they need it.

Random Acts of Culture – A Good Cause and My Turn


KnightArts - Witnessing the Transformational Power of the Arts

If you listen to NPR, you have probably heard of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, if only in the underwriting acknowledgements that are delivered in the dulcet tones of Frank Tavares. One of the programs of the Knight Foundation is KnightArts. From the website:

Knight Foundation invests in artistic excellence, funding arts projects that engage the Knight resident communities in collective cultural experiences. We look for innovative, high-quality ideas. Our grantees represent both emerging artists and organizations and the oldest and most venerable institutions. The projects all have one thing in common: they enrich and engage the communities that produce them.

The program is in its first year, and emerging areas of interest include digitization of museum collections, development of arts incubator spaces, arts contests in which all community members are eligible for funding and a Random Acts of Culture program that brings fine art to the population and breaks down barriers that prevent consistent engagement in the arts.

Charlotte, NC is one of the eight resident Knight communities that receive funding for these efforts. And multiple arts organizations in the city, under the umbrella of the Arts and Science Council, have been involved in executing the goal of Random Acts of Culture, including Opera Carolina, the Charlotte Symphony, and North Carolina Dance Theatre.

I have been singing with Opera Carolina since 1998, both in the chorus and in roles in productions like Macbeth, Amahl & the Night Visitors, Susannah, and Tosca (check out those costumes). And the chorus has contributed to the Random Acts this year, though I was not able to participate. This past weekend, it was my turn.

On Saturday, Melinda Whittington, John Kaneklides and I were asked to go to SouthPark Mall, and give a Random Act in the Belk department store. Melinda performed “O mio babbino” from La boheme by Puccini, John sang “Una furtiva lagrima” from The Elixir of Love by Donizetti, and I sang “Votre toast” from Carmen by Bizet. I don’t know why none of Melinda’s performance did not make the video (it should have), but here are John and I.

This was not as easy to do as you would think: singing with a recording is tough enough since it will not adjust to your tempos, but it’s even harder when you can’t always hear the music. Still, it was a fun time, I think we entertained, and I was especially glad that my daughters were there to see it (you see both of them as the camera pans by them a couple of times).

Random Acts of Culture is a good program, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I hope you all get a chance to experience one sometime.