What music does for an audience and what it does for me.

So 2010 has been a very interesting year for me.  I'v been blessed with a new nephew from my brother and his wife, my husband and I have found a new spark and respect in our relationship, we updated our house with some much needed improvements, I got to perform at a music festival and put out a new CD online with my band, Bricktown Station, and I have to say, that I have performed live more than I ever have in my life!!! That last one has really changed me this year. I guess we'll call it growth.   There's been a lot of unsettling of the cracks this year too.  I quit one job, hired at a new one with high financial hopes (that lasted about a month), started a new part time one and got fired ("you're just too corporate"), and have been on the job search daily for about 6 months (quite depressing in Michigan), I'v been dwindling away at my savings, someone stole my identity right before the holidays, and I had lost 3 grandparents. That last one really hit me.  It was Chris's mammaw from Florida and we went to the service just a few days before Christmas.  How odd it was to walk around the airport to see all of these excited families on their way to visit Mickey for the holidays while Chris and I kept our head's up trying to not think about the sadness that we were to be engulfed in.  

Well in the airport there was a karaoke booth set up with "world renown" karaoke DJ Nico Fuentes.  It was a charity event. Spend $5 to sing a song and the money goes to the Salvation Army. Well, going back to what I had mentioned before, I have taken every opportunity to perform live that I could possibly do. This was no exception.  I had recently learned the words in whole for "The Christmas Song" and thought, why not? I like to challenge myself.  So I got up there, the famous violins started, and I began...although, I immediately knew...this is NOT my key. Nat King Cole and I have very different ways of singing.  I started a little softly because of it.  Now if I were in a studio, it might have worked, but in an airport, with a less than high quality sound system waiting for feedback, it just wasn't working.  So much so, that Nico joined in with me from behind the stage. This sort of threw me, so I thought...maybe he'll join me on stage and we'll do a duet.  I started immediately singing harmonies. That didn't work either. I think it through Nico off. He stopped singing. 

Now I'm not a professional karaoke vocalist, but this wasn't the first time I sang a song that wasn't in my key before.  Usually when this happens, I start off shaky and quiet, and work my way through until the end when I belt it out for a big ending.  Well that's what I ended up doing.  Not my best work, I'll admit. No producer getting off his first class plane stopped to ask my name. I don't really even remember an applause. UGH! No worries. I sang and I donated my $5.

When we got to Florida, emotions were running amuck. About 4 families spent the time in Mammaw's house. We all had a bed or a couch or the floor. It was a bit chaotic, but nice to spend the time with family that we hadn't seen since the previous trip to Florida, and nice to meet new family members that we'd only previously known via Facebook. 

Now earlier in the year my family went to Buffalo, New York to have a memorial service for my Grandpa who's ashes were buried next to my Grandma's.  It was the first time we saw my Grandma's grave since her funeral 6 years prior.  Again, an emotional time. While planning the service, my Uncle Rick suggested that I sing a song in Grandpa's honor.  I was dumbfounded. I had never sang at a funeral, I didn't know any religious songs, and I didn't feel prepared. Emotionally or vocally.  Of course, things do work out, and in the 20 minutes before, I got the words to "Amazing Grace", figured my key, and quickly arranged how the song would go with the accompanist.  It went flawlessly. I have to thank my grandfather's spirit alone for that.  It was really surreal.  I honestly never expected or planned to sing for a funeral. My voice sounded beautiful in the church. The acoustics were eerie yet calming. While performing, I could see my relatives and my family burst into tears. This was not easy.  When I finished, there was no applause. There was light sniffling and pure silence. 

Later in the year, when Chris's Grandma Morgan passed, I was asked once again to sing "Amazing Grace" for her memorial.  The emotions and the bizarre internal feelings were there again. The only difference was a different family to watch grieve at their loss. Once again, this was not easy.  I had never seen my husband's family in such a way. I can't lose that image. The family was great full for my performance and I was honored to have been chosen.  I wasn't the only performer at this service. There was also a barbershop quartet. Despite the situation, it really made me happy.  It's hard to hear barbershop music under any circumstance and not smile. I hope it made Grandma Morgan happy to look down and have music at her service. It's now a request for my eventual service one day to have a barbershop quartet perform. 

Now back to last week.  When mammaw passed, Chris's mom asked me to perform that tune again.  This was probably the most difficult of all of the three.  Of course the regular holiday stress needs to be accounted for that, but having the whole year come to a head didn't help either.  Plus we had only just seen her a couple months before. She was at Grandma Morgan's service. They apparently worked together when they were young. 

Each of the three performances were completely different, yet the emotions were the same. I immediately felt like I had to be strong for everyone.  My shoulders back, my feet planted in place, my voice strong, yet soothing.  I was a rock for the grief stricken.  Most importantly it made me question what my "gift" was. What the job of a vocalist is in joy and in pain.  What music does for an audience, and what does music do for me. 

On the way back from Florida, we had noticed that "Sing for a Cause" was still running.  I took the opportunity once again to show my vocal prowess on the karaoke stage and to donate my $5 from my back pocket, but this time with the knowledge to sing a song that I knew and to up the ante.  I sang "I Heard it Through the Grapevine".  We were in Motown!  This time Nico stepped aside.  The song was mine. I had decided to have fun with it and to give it my soulful best.  This was really helpful for me most of all. It was nice to perform for an optimistic cause. It was completely different.  There was a crowd, people were smiling, some guy was video taping me (not just Chris), and best of all......the whole crowd started doing the electric slide line dance. That was a first. I got a huge applause at the end and was even asked to perform another song. I didn't...Chris and I were drained, and just wanted to get home by that point. 

Music can help people grieve and music can get strangers to dance with each other. Music can be used to raise money for charity and music can be used honor a loved one. Music is apart of my every breathing second. The couple of days before Christmas were hectic and draining and emotional and tear-filled, yet each day was another day with music in my life.

--movin on up--

--chrissy morgan