The Von Trapp family was the Partridge Family of their day but without the annoying pastels and giant flowers randomly painted on walls. A string of silver-throated talents from old to young, this family did more to further my love of singing than any other early influence. I suspect I even subconsciously believed that the girl of my dreams would have dark lovely hair and would angelically sing and as she waited for me before dates about being sixteen going on seventeen and what not. Maybe that’s why I’ve found it particularly difficult to get over my last girlfriend who could easily gain entry into a Von Trapp family reunion, or could at least organize the event.
Singing was a part of my childhood for many years. I even sang the co-lead in a Presidents Day play in grade school. I was Lincoln. My hated childhood nemesis was George Washington. I always wished there had been an impromptu duel between us in that play, me singing about ending slavery with an Attack au Fer, he with a parry and a quip about the one dollar bill, the fight culminating with blurred steel and shouts of honesty vs. equality. Of course, I prevail in an ironic twist of my blade as Washington collapses beside his father’s felled cherry tree, red fruit tumbling out to the shocked parents below.
But soon my voice would be shattered by puberty and singing next to my mother in church, her eyes full of happiness, would lose its appeal in the paradigm of a my teenage years. The next years were sung like the plains of America, if mildly beatific, without range. But I did have one interesting solo just out of college where I sang David Lee Roth’s interpretation of “Just a Gigolo”, forced by a girl I was obliged to tip my hat to at a bar one evening. To say I dominated the audience with my Karaoke interpretation would not illustrate how Prince-like I used the mic and how somewhere in the distance, Ol’ Blue Eyes was golf clapping. The professional singers in the audience turned inwardly toward their drinks as the crowd cheered and women’s knees buckled.
If I’ve learned anything from the recording industry, it’s better to go out like Salena than like Michael. So I quit while I was ahead. Nothing for years. But then I met the girl. And I got to date her. A song for any season not just in voice but in heart, she gilded any harmony. She said I had a nice voice after a very brief a capalla, though I’m uncertain how much of this was uncomfortable pity to her professional ear. But my three-year old niece says she like to hear me sing. For her, I only sing crooner-style Christmas songs with lots of embellishment to help swing my audience of she, dinosaur and birdie. And she’s very forgiving considering I forget most of the lyrics and just repeat the one part I know two or three times. Sometimes she even dances.
It’s nice to sway an audience and though my girl is now gone, and though we never sang together, thoughts of remembering her through singing seems like a nice waste of time for me while driving to and from work each day. Maybe one day, if the universe shifts just far enough, she and I will meet up again on grassy hills above Salzburg to sing our duet. If not, I’ll just sit up there and try to enjoy the silence, save for the brushing sound of the wind.