Sing-A-Long Sound of Music

by Glenn on September 29, 2014

Nancy and I attended a Sing-A-Long Sound of Music Saturday night at Cinema 21 in NW Portland. It was delightful, to borrow a Nancyism, a very enjoyable evening.

The young lady who hosted was exceptional. (A few years ago, I helped organize one of these events at our church and would have done a much better job if I had experienced this one first. But that’s just neurosis.)

The main thing I want to say about this experience was how much fun it was to sing with other people who like to sing. Obviously the dork level was perhaps a little higher in the theatre than the rest of the city, but it was amazing how quickly a group of people began to sing, enthusiastically and joyfully. Our hostess warmed us up by singing a line from one of the songs and having us sing the next line. She had trouble getting us to stop once we got going. We like to sing.

There’s a lot that could be said about how this film became and remains part of our cultural imagination. (And it should be noted that not everyone loves it. Allegedly, Christopher Plummer referred to it as the “Sound of Mucus.”)

I am a little perplexed by how easily and readily we all sang these songs and how difficult it sometimes is to sing in church. It’s pedantic, but I make these observations about the Sound of Music:

1. The songs are in good keys for singing.

2. While Julie Andrews certainly has a unique voice, she and the rest of the soloists sing in such a way that it is easy to sing along. Vocal distractions (with the exception of some underpitched singing from the children) are minimal.

3. The tunes are memorable and are privileged, which is to say it’s all about the tunes. I know nothing of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s writing and composition process. Did the lyrics or the tunes come first? No idea. What lingers is the fact that the tune is the predominate concern. (Nancy had “Do, Re, Mi” stuck in her head yesterday. Today I find myself humming the ländler that the Captain and Maria danced to at the party.)

Contrast this with what sometimes happens in church:

1. The songs are in good keys for the soloist or the band. The last thought seems to be whether we in the congregation will find it comfortable for singing.

2. The leaders embrace affectation. Good vocal production has been sacrificed in the name of authenticity. It’s difficult to sing with people who are shouting or rasping. (Ironically, there is a generation of worship leaders who, in trying to sound like individuals, sound alike.)

3. It’s about the rhythm. The tune is difficult to follow either because it was poorly conceived or because of the way it has been altered by to the leader. It’s perfectly fine for a leader to embellish a tune with some sort of vocal styling, but someone up front should be singing the tune in such a way that we can follow along. There are Sundays where a song will stay with me the rest of the day and I’ll wake up with it the next morning. Those days are great. But then there are services where nothing sticks. Nothing was sticky.