Monday, December 22, 2014
Music did not run in my family, it fled. Screaming, arms raised, seeking shelter, mercy, from a storm of sharps for flats, and flats for naturals.
We had no piano; no one sang, or if they did, there would be some listener's hell to pay.
Just to give you a vague idea, after try-outs for fifth grade chorus, my sister, my beautiful older sister, was one of only two kids in her class of 25 who didn't make the cut. So every week, while 23 of her classmates trotted off to join 46 others for choral practice, my sister and Steve Melman spent two hours in study period.
That my sister would be so singled out, infuriated my parents, and gave them the very reason they needed to boycott all elementary school recitals for the rest of our born days.
Including mine. Compared to the rest of my family, I was practically Leontyne Price. But they never knew that. And even if they had come to my recitals, they still wouldn't have known that. Not sporting those tin ears, they wouldn't.
Amazingly, though, my parents owned an excellent sound system -- high-end, better than all our neighbors, with a Dual single play/semi-automatic turntable, and a TEAC reel-to-reel player. A lot of bang when you consider they only laid out bucks for three record albums. The demo tape came with purchase, and my parents never considered buying another.
"Come fly with me, come fly, come fly away..." That was on the demo tape. My parents hated Frank Sinatra. "You think that's good?" Dad would scoff. "Oh, turn it off, or at least, turn it down," my mom would say.
When buying this sound system, they must have run into one hell of a salesman; the kind of guy who, if you go shopping for a magnifying glass, two hours later has you signing a contract for the Hubble telescope.
But back to Christmas.
Of our three albums, one third was Mitch Miller's Sing Along With Mitch Christmas Album. Since we listened to this record for one full month every year for maybe six years, I can tell you everything about it, from Mitch's Santa cap on the cover to all the liner notes.
So one year, I guess this would be about third grade for me, I spent my filthy lucre ($1 or so) on a new Christmas album from the Thrify's bin. Some compendium by the Norman Tabernacle Choir.
As we sat down to a dinner, I timed it to play when we tucked into our ribbe and such.
"What is that?" my sister screamed. "It sounds like the Salvation Army Band."
"She's right," my dad said, holding his head."My ears are exploding."
"Who can hit a note that high? Can Heidi [our second Heidi schnauzer] hear it?" said -- I don't know -- someone I still hate.
I suppose I got rather weepy at this point. And my mother patted my shoulder. "Well, it was nice of you to buy this for us. Maybe we should give it another listen, try it later. But you know what I think? I think now we'd all like to sing along with Mitch."