November 30, 2010

Do You Hear what I Hear?

I come from a family of singers.  In fact, when my dad was the cantor for our cathedral choir, which sang hidden up in the choir loft, little Joe Chirico who grew up to marry my friend Rachel thought his booming baritone was the voice of God.

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.


  1. Good luck to the lad.

    And you left one of those paragraphs with the idea that his mother and his sister were the only hands clapping.

  2. Vince: Point taken. I'll think about it.

  3. It's not a point exactly, and with my writing who am I to mention it at all. But you had a beautiful paragraph on the go.

    And why are the Spanish getting a second bite it's not that long ago that Compostela hosted the Day. There isn't anything special going on that I can think that would cause it. And surely India would have been a far better. choice.

  4. Very exciting for him; and all of his family!

    It's nice to be expressive with music, especially when you have a good voice. Do you and the family sing together and video yourselves? We'd love to hear Ian and the rest of you out here in bloggyland. :)

    Best wishes to Ian, and may his musical talent continue to give him much pleasure during his life. (Maybe a few bucks too. :) )

  5. I love to see/hear my son play guitar and sing, and now my 13 year-old nephew comes over to his "cool" uncle's studio and plays guitar, checking out the effects and amps and such, and it melts my heart to see them discover their own creativity and love of music. I guess it is not surprising that I fell for a musician.

    Ian has great taste -- I love Daniel Lanois! And he must be good if he is being compared to Cat/Neil/John Denver. And so nice that you hear your other family singers in his voice.

  6. I had never heard that little anecdote about Joe. How cute!

    How awesome for Ian to be performing solo, and receiving such a range of interesting comparisons and compliments. It sounds like he really has it, based on the reaction of the listeners, and certainly no surprise, given your family history, as you noted. I hope you get to enjoy many more performances.


  7. what a beautiful song choice and what an awesome thing for all of you to have been able to hear a pin drop while he was singing it. =)

  8. Vince: Oh dear, I'm not really that 'up' on the European news - are you talking about the bailouts?

    Anita: No we haven't made a video of ourselves together, but maybe we should. My daughter just ordered a video camera. Ian is doing some more recording, so I hope to post something before too long.

    DFG: I'm not surprised you fell for a musician either, just surprised that I didn't, though he does love music and he is thrilled that our kids are all so musical.

    Valerie: I love to read your comments here - thanks, friend of old!

    E.P. It is one of my favourite songs and yes, it really was. He's performing in a coffee shop tonight with some friends, so my husband is going to go this time. Thanks for dropping by!

  9. LOL, the politics of the Catholic Church is far more complicated. I was on about the Youth Day.

  10. Vince: Duh! Of course. Why couldn't I see that? That being said, I have no idea why Spain again. I suppose India just done hosting the Commonwealth Games had something to do with it, and I suppose it has to be somewhere accessible to the majority of Catholics, as far as the organizers are concerned. But then, Africa would be a contender too!

  11. cool for your son...obviously he has talent..and it is good he does not remind everyone on the same person...because he does not want to be typed it am sure...

  12. How lovely that your son has found his voice. Our boys are both basses but we don't hear nearly enough of them since they left school. The older one has joined a choir so we can still attend some lovely concerts.

  13. Your son's voice is like so many of the truly memorable folk singers? How wonderful, and, then, he is uniquely Ian. Also interesting how genes can help to reflect talents from ancestors. I know families like that whose children carry on some vital gifts.

  14. How exciting. A family with talent. My children like to sing too. What they lack in talent, they make up for in volume. Good wishes to Ian as he moves forward.


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