THE RIGHT TO SING
Seth Rudetsky, James Wesley and Van Dean produced “Broadway for Orlando”, a benefit single of “What the World Needs Now is Love” sung by dozens of broadway performers. You can buy it on iTunes and 100% of what you spend goes to the victims and families of victims in the Orlando shooting.
Seth made a YouTube video called “Deconstructing Broadway for Orlando” which is both crazy entertaining and educational. In it Seth goes phrase by phrase pointing out what he likes about what each performer does on their solos or what’s happening on a particular group harmony. Rudetsky is clearly a master technician and a huge fan of all things musical. He geeks out on every detail of the song in the most hilarious and charming way. (My definition of a nerd is someone who unabashedly and unapologetically loves something. I love nerds.) The striking thing I learned is that, seemingly to him, every voice is valid for communication.
Seth mentions how he talked Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie Perez into singing solos even though they don’t consider themselves singers. He points out why what they do is so effective in the song. The arrangement has Sarah Jessica Parker’s light voice sandwiched between power houses Kristen Bell, Gloria Estefan and Idina Menzel. He explains why he wanted Parker’s sweetness on “it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of” and he’s equally excited about Idina’s expert back phrasing of “No, not just for some, but for everyone”. And he keeps saying, “I love how ‘so and so’ sounds so much like themselves on this phrase”. When you listen to the song as a whole, it beautifully communicates an important sentiment expressed by many different kinds of voices and personalities. The variety is part of the appeal.
My good friend, Deanna Decampos, owns Eastside Westside Music Together which offers music classes for babies/toddlers and their parents. The theory behind the program is that music participation is for everyone. Once upon a time, families sat around and sang together, but somewhere in the middle of the 20th century with the rise of school choirs and competitions, music became relegated to the naturally gifted. Music Together tries to remove this burden of expectation and get families singing together again.
Of course, we know that expertise and dedication to the advanced craft of singing is a wonderful thing. That’s what the Kim Stern Summer Vocal Intensive is all about. But for today, I love the idea of us all starting from the position that we have a Right to Sing. I borrow the phrase from Patsy Rosenburg’s excellent book, The Right To Speak: Working with the Voice. Somewhere along the way, society is trying shut us up – maybe not on purpose, maybe not maliciously, but it happens. Let’s resist it.
Nova Thomas, tells a great story about when she was attending White Gloves and Party Manners Pre-School in the deep south. Her father was called in for a parent-teacher conference where he was told (read with an extreme southern accent), “Nova’s inside voice is more like an outside voice and her outside voice is like something from the animal kingdom.” To which he answered, “Well, she has something important to say.” He was right. She went on to be an accomplished opera singer.
We all have something to say. We all have something to sing. Let’s do it with love because that’s exactly what the world needs now.