By Linda Wallace

Author's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Monday, December 11, 2006


I walked a different direction yesterday. Seattle, as always, was gorgeous even though my photo doesn’t do it justice, but I was seeing the city and the Sound in a new light. Most usually I walk the avenues in West Seattle, running north and south, but yesterday, just for variety, I walked east and west following the streets. Everything looked so different! Amazing how changing your routine just a little can make a big difference in how you see things. Even if you just change the side of the street you’re walking on, the houses and yards seem entirely new even though you’ve seen them dozens of times before. It’s called perspective. Not a bad philosophy for life, actually.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Tune in a Bucket

I can’t sing. Or at least I can’t sing well, but I like to try to fit my approximately three-note range into songs. At church I lustily belt out all the hymns. The poor worshipers who sit in front of me don’t make that mistake twice. Lately, I’ve been flattering myself that my voice may have improved somewhat from all the church practice. I briefly considered taking a tape recorder along to see how melodiously and closely I’ve come to hitting the notes but decided I might not ever be brave enough to sing in public again after listening to the results. Better to believe you sound better than to prove decisively it’s not true. Especially now when the Christmas carol season approaches.

My sister has a great voice. She taught elementary school music for years in Missouri and loved it. She’s one of the few people I know who actually made a living at a job she enjoyed. She’s also always on call to provide the music for weddings and funerals, and she enlivens summer tours of her historic hometown with folk songs from the Civil War. I’ve always been jealous. Why couldn’t the genes have been spread around a little better? To compensate, I learned to play the flute, self-taught, thanks to children’s band books my sister provided. Naturally, that method of instruction did not produce a great flautist, but I can play well enough (when I practice) to make music, which was my goal.

Not long ago, I complimented a young woman on a beautiful solo she’d sung at church. After bestowing kudos, I confided how I despaired of my own voice.

"I’m a terrible singer," I told her. "I sound like a frog."

"I love terrible singers," she replied.

She said she’d like to teach a class for people with horrible voices. That sounded like a great idea to me. I’ve often fantasized about taking lessons from a voice coach who would transform me into a singer of operatic rhapsodies.

I’m still waiting for her class, but in the meantime, I discovered "How to Sing in the Shower," a workshop taught by Cathleen Wilder at the Dusty Strings studio in Fremont, according to The Seattle Times. Wilder is a former opera singer who teaches a non-judgmental class on "reclaiming our birthright to sing." She instructs students in the basics from breathing techniques to the parts of the body that produce sound. The newspaper article mentions "resonating chambers." That struck a chord (no pun intended, of course) with me. I think I locate those chambers when I practice yoga to my beloved, ancient Misty Carey Yoga to Go tapes. When I chant "sat nam" (spelling?) with the instructor, I feel the sound resonate through my chest and head.

Wilder believes we need more singing in America. She’s quoted as saying that right now America is losing out on a lot of joy. She even claims we’d all sound good if we practiced more. Her motto is, "Your voice is beautiful, no matter how it sounds." Obviously, she has never sat in front of me in church.

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