November 30, 2010
Do You Hear what I Hear?
Everyone in my family can sing. My sister Pauline has a big range and both my brothers have deep, rich, resonant voices. My other two sisters and I are competent singers, and my mom is a lovely mezzo-soprano. This ability has been passed down to much of the next generation, and as my nephews, nieces and children grow up, they are letting their own voices be heard.
My son, Ian let us hear his singing voice last year. He had started writing songs and his sister, Emma told us she had heard him rehearsing at school and said, surprised, that he sounded 'not bad'. One evening when he was doing some recording, Ian let us hear him sing as long as we turned our backs to him. His voice was a little shy then but it was clear and fine, with notes of his uncles and grampa, his cousins and something else I couldn't identify besides perhaps being from his dad's side; I've never heard any of them sing except for my husband.
The other night, Ian performed at a fundraiser put on by a friend. My friend is raising funds for her daughter and two other girls, all friends of my son's, to attend World Youth Day in Madrid next year. The main attraction of the evening was a Christian pop group from Vancouver. They are all skilled musicians and put on a good show, if you like that kind of music (which I confess I generally do not). I went to support my friend and the three girls whom I have watched grow up into lovely young women, and to support Ian. After the first set the MC announced Ian and he came up to the stage with his guitar and his signature black fedora perched as usual atop his head of shoulder length blonde hair. He greeted the audience, who greeted him back good humouredly, and then launched into his first song, which he had written. As Ian sang and played his guitar alone on the stage, the audience, filled with people from the Parish and various members of the community, most of whom had never heard him before, were very quiet. Ian's second song was The Maker by Daniel Lanois, and at one point I swear you could have heard a pin drop in the gymnasium. When he was done, my daughter and I clapped proudly and then the other group came back on the stage.
I left the concert soon after Ian's performance and had taken my daughter home, when I realized I had forgotten something at the gym so came back. I was standing at the back of the gym during the group's last song when the owner of the local print shop came up to me and shouted over the band, "Your son did very well. His voice reminds me of Cat Stevens'".
After the concert, my husband and I went to a friend's annual Beginning of Season party. A couple who had been at the concert came up to talk to me. The husband of the couple has a strong Swiss German accent and he is very expressive when he speaks:
"Your son, I saw him tonight. He was amazing! When he sang I felt it (he put his fist on his chest) here. Tell me, does he sing country?"
me: "No, he doesn't really like country music, but he does like folk music."
"Oh, too bad! Does he know that singer, though, Young Neil? You know, he sings that song 'Heart of Gold?"
me: "Oh, you mean Neil Young! We like him very much, of course, and Ian knows that song well."
"Okay, because your son, he should do that song because he is just like Neil Young except without the stupid hat."
And then he asked me lots of questions about my boys, and how they got interested in music.
The next morning, I ran into an older lady who had been at the concert:
"Your son last night, Rebecca. He was wonderful! You know who he reminded me of?"
me: "Who?" ( Neil Young? Cat Stevens? A young Gordon Lightfoot, as my friend Molly said when she'd heard a recording of Ian's I put a link to on Facebook?)
"John Denver! He has that same kind of melancholy, warm way about him."
Later, when I repeated all these conversations to Ian, he laughed and said he liked that he reminded everyone of someone different, and took it all as the great compliment it was intended to be. Of course, to me, he will always remind me of the various voices in our family, but the people in this adopted town of mine don't know my family. They had never been to a jam session at our house, hadn't heard my parents sing in the choral society or my dad sing 'Dream the Impossible Dream' as Don Quioxote in the Nelson Little Theatre production of Man of la Mancha. They hadn't heard my brother sing with his band in the Civic Hotel bar or my sister at various venues around the Kootenays. They will refer to the voices they know and have stored in their hearts in order to express their appreciation for what they heard the other night from my son. It is only natural. However, when all is said and done, Ian's voice is Ian's alone, and I am sure, as he gets older, he hopes we will all see it that way...or hear it that way.
Here's a link to a video of Daniel Lanois singing 'The Maker'. The photo is of Ian in his bedroom, surrounded by some of his influences.