Daily Prompt: Papa Loves Mambo
Music has always been a part of our family fabric.
From the ancestors who played in the brass bands of northern Michigan in the 1800s to my grandfather who played a multitude of instruments in his living room, to my grandmother who warbled like a bird while painting portraits of her beloved mountains, there was never any lack of music in my family.
It was only logical then, that at some point a generation would cultivate the gift of music and do something with it.
One side of the family inhabited the rock genre for many decades, touring the west coast of Canada and the U.S.
On our side of the family my mother Lois McDonall, in the early 1970s, burst onto the international operatic stage as a dramatic soprano specializing in the Bel Canto repertoire.
It was her career and a vital part of our formative lives. Divorced and raising two kids on her own in a land far from everything she knew, mom was the sole breadwinner and worked long hours to provide for my brother and I. We enjoyed a comfortable, but not extravagant life.
Given her humble beginnings in the middle-of-nowhere, Alberta, and the difficult upbringing she had as an only child in a deeply troubled home, her success in her chosen field of music was nothing less than miraculous. (Some day, when I feel so inclined, I may write about it.)
As you might imagine, then, our home was filled to the brim with classical music.
All through my formative years my mother’s career base was the English National Opera in London’s West End. My brother and I went to the opera a lot, so our memories of music revolve heavily around this experience.
To bring balance, I guess, my personal tastes leaned toward the country rock of the Eagles and other contemporary bands of the 1970s and 80s.
Both my brother and I learned to play the piano. He eventually moved on to the clarinet.
My musical training finely tuned my ear and to this day if an artist in any genre is the least bit sharp or flat, I cringe ~ turn down the sound, change the channel, turn the dial, walk out of the bar. My ears are spoiled for true sound. I suppose that’s why I’m not a big fan of auto-tuning.
Does this make me a music snob?
Perhaps. But I know what I like and I don’t like my ears assaulted. I’d rather listen to no music than be offended by something I don’t like.
Of course, I sing. Both my brother and I do.
Our small family enjoyed sing songs around the piano of a Sunday evening. Mom took the soprano part, I sang alto and my brother switched between tenor and bass. He’s always been clever that way.
In my late 20s I had the privilege of joining the 180-voice Toronto Mendelssohn Choir as a soprano and relished 12 seasons of pure music joy.
I’d always loved choral music and it was on my bucket list from a young age to sing in a large choir. This particular choir is one of the world’s great symphonic choral organizations, and one of the oldest. It’s noted for its pureness of tone and versatility. Singing with this amazing institution is one of the great music highlights of my life. Handel’s Messiah, Mozart Requiem, Brahm’s Requiem and so, so many more amazing choral standards and contemporary works resonate so deeply it’s like soul food to me.
Following my tenure with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir I spent almost 10 years in a vocal trio ~ ChoirGirlz ~ so called because we met in the choir and decided we wanted to try our vocal chops on something new. Bluegrass and country was our first experiment, which went so well we expanded our repertoire to include a little bit of R&B, vocal jazz, as well as a lot of original material written specifically for our finely tuned voices.
We performed in bars, at fundraising concerts, at festivals, and recorded three CDs. We had a blast.
In 2010, we disbanded. We’d all had enough and it was time to move on.
I haven’t performed in public since, except for a hair-brained attempt at rock music in a temporary band a couple of years ago. Not my vocal genre at all, but fun. Through it I met a great voice coach with a jazz background and thought I might nurture myself into jazz. I enjoyed workshopping that for a while and have a great voice for it, but sadly adrenal fatigue put a wrench in the works. I just don’t have the extra vitality it takes (at this point, anyway) to sustain a performance to the standard I like and an audience deserves.
On one level this makes me sad. Still, if I was focusing on singing I wouldn’t be writing and that, to me, is where the thrust of my creative energy lies at this point in my life.
I have many fond memories of singing and the good fortune to have had it all start in a home filled with love and glorious music.
Once music is woven into our hearts it’s part of the fabric of our lives forever.
And what could be better than that?
Thanks for visiting,
©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014
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