Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Songs and the Memories They Evoke

The editor of this blog saw this "tweet" on the Twitter home page:

"I love hearing old songs I used to love. They're like memories you can always go back to."

The members of the Midwest Vocal Express actively link music and memories as we try to create those life changing moments - for ourselves and the audience - through our "Storytelling through Song" approach to performance. Our coaches, directors and leaders often ask us to recall something from our past as we try to convey the meaning of a particular song and that is usually tied to a specific emotion.  We don't all have the same memories, but by tying it back to personal memories, the emotions we portray as we sing the song are heartfelt and genuine.

Scientists have even attempted to answer the question of Why Do Songs Trigger Specific Memories?

What songs evoke the most powerful memories for you?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen - Start Your Hankies

A few men within the ranks of the Midwest Vocal Express chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society have taken it upon themselves to amplify the chapter’s efforts to promote the purest form of barbershop singing – the quartet.  After all, the original name of the society was and continues to be SPEBSQSA – the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, Inc.

These men have created the Quartet Club (QC), which meets regularly at the Harmony Inn the Village in downtown Greendale, WI to rehearse and perform for the patrons.  The venue’s web site includes a calendar showing when the QC and various quartets will be performing there.  Stop in for a great meal and a few tunes and who knows what you might witness.

Here is an account from a QC leader regarding a recent performance:

All of us in QC on Saturday experienced the wonderful performance "moment" that Grant, Josh and all of our leaders talk about relative to "Changing Peoples’ Lives."

QC, as usual, sang in both dining rooms for the guests.  In the Fountain Room, we gathered in front of a table occupied by an elderly man (even older than me!), his wife and their daughter enjoying a great breakfast.  Our first song was "My Wild Irish Rose," during which the wife and mother sang every word with us, all the while just beaming.

Lips did his normal great job, asked the wife her name (she responded "Jan"), and then we sang "Let Me Call You Sweetheart."  Once again, Jan beamed and sang along with us.  We noticed that the daughter had tears flowing, and was tenderly holding Jan's hand during the songs.  We all were touched, and fought to finish the set while keeping our composure.

It gets better....a few of us stayed at the table to chat with the family, and that's when the daughter briefly mentioned that her mom was struggling with late stage Alzheimer's.  The daughter was surprised that "Jan" could remember her name!!...much less chat a bit and sing along with QC.

After we returned to the Harmony Hall to rehearse, the daughter followed us in, apologized for interrupting and then shared more details about her mom and how un-responsive she had been until we had started to sing.  At this point, she was crying so hard, frustrated that words alone couldn't express her feelings of joy for her mom as well as her thanks to us.  I tell you.... there wasn't a dry eye in the hall!

She left after a few minutes.  We all stood speechless...looking at each other, trying to digest what had just happened.  The light went on...We had just changed someone's lives!  WOW!  What a powerful gift we have that allows us to bring a person in Jan's situation back to the present so she can not only enjoy the moment, but recognize her family and be the mom and wife they've known and loved once again...if just for a few moments.

That, my friends, is the power of music.