Dare Me to Sing

November 9, 2010

Some time ago, say three or four years, I was dared to do something. And I did it. When the dare was voiced it seemed like a huge challenge. But now, with that awful analytical tool of hindsight, I see that it was just a tiny hop on a much longer race.

The dare was thus. Develop a one man show that incorporates your own poetry and the sung music of Jacques Brel and make it happen in under a year. Brel was an iconic Franco-Belgian singer songwriter. His songs are not always easy and the translations from the original languages; French, Dutch and Flemish; are not always satisfactory. But his work could be said to cover almost every human emotion, collective or singular. The last time they had any success in the U.S. was in the late sixties and early seventies, when a review was launched at The Village Gate in New York City. “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”. I named my show, “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Visiting the Pearl”. The Pearl is a rapidly boutiqued district in the NW sector of Portland, Oregon.

At the time of the dare I was just beginning to resume singing lessons from a locally known and loved Jazz singer. Before this my instruction had been in the classical style and I could sing Lieder. Wow! Which I may still do one day. But Brel is not lieder, and neither is Tom Lehrer or Flanders and Swan, or Kurt Weil whose songs I added to my show later. The lessons gave me the confidence to just do it. I don’t have a wonderful voice, I don’t learn music easily, I cannot even read a score, and don’t start to talk to me about keys.

What I have is a good voice. Not special. But a good and interesting voice. I have moxie. I have a profound sense of humor and good timing. I can’t wait to get on stage. My place, where I belong. On stage, performing I am relaxed and happy.

In my show, which I have put on now five times to a paying public, I intersect the songs with poetry. A lot of Billy Collins, and of course my own. It makes an interesting show. Satire, Cynicism, Humor, Love, Anger and flat out Belly Laughs.

The dare took me to the entrance of a place where I should be. But the sad part of the story is that I do not so this anywhere as much as I should. And this is where I see that what I have done so far is hop into the weakest orbits of performance art. I need to go much further. My poetry, my voice and my writing, so long waiting in some metaphorical wing may need crutches to get on stage at this rate.

What to do? As if I did not know……I need another dare.

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