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Not all of America’s got talent

If I were to find a magic lamp and were a genie to pop out of it and offer me three wishes, I know what I would choose. My first wish would be for the ability to sing.

I love to sing; I just can’t carry a tune. Not even in a basket. I would like to sing baritone but end up signing monotone. The only solo I have ever been asked to sing is to sing so low no one else could hear me.

The difference between me and a lawnmower? You can tune a lawn mower.

As a child, I was an avid singer. The Itsy Bitsy Spider was one of my early favorites, complete with motions. In Sunday school, I sang The Happy Day Express, Joy, Joy, Joy and We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder with great enthusiasm. And when the song called for motions, man, I was Mr. Gesticulation.

From second through sixth grade I was blessed to have sat under the tutelage of Mrs. Nelson, my all-time favorite music teacher. We learned the scales, the pitch and duration of the different notes and rhythm. We even learned about time signatures. In fourth grade Mrs. Nelson taught us how to play the little black song flute called a Tonette and in sixth grade we learned to sing in four-part harmony. All of that training, however, did not earn me the ability to carry a tune and by the time I reached my teens I was fully aware of my lack of musical talent. I quit singing with enthusiasm.

In eighth grade the junior high band teacher told me there was an old e-flat sousaphone in the band room and if I wanted to do so he would teach me to play it. I did okay but wasn’t good enough to play in the high school band the next year. Later on I taught myself to pick out a tune on a keyboard.

In spite of these musical activities, I cannot sing well.

I thought of this again last week when my Rotary Club sang America before pledging allegiance to the flag. I do well on the Pledge but during the singing I keep the volume way down to avoid embarrassing myself and those around me.

In church I appreciate the accompaniment a loud organ or praise band. They allow me to sing quietly without being heard by the folks near me. It is safe to say that the folks at America’s Got Talent television show are not awaiting my application.

Years ago a friend who shared my handicap decided to take voice lessons. His goal was to learn to sing well enough to sing a solo in church. I don’t recall how many lessons John had but, sure enough, one Sunday evening John sang a solo in church. Was John an excellent singer? Not really, but he did reasonably well and I admired him for his dedication and courage. While I regret that the Lord did not give me a singing voice, I am grateful He gave me the ability to recognize that I can’t sing. My observation is that the least talented singers can sometimes be the most anxious to perform in public. Excessive ego can offset common sense in a number of arenas, including that of vocal music. In 60-plus years of church-going I have heard some pretty bad singing by folks who seemed to relish the opportunity to share their “gift.”

The saddest cases, however, are those of singers with the ability to sing who don’t practice. I recall a gentleman in a church we attended who had a beautiful baritone voice but when he sang in church it was obvious he had not practiced. When you mess up the words in How Great Thou Art, you haven’t practiced. On another occasion he made up the words to one verse of the Old Rugged Cross. Maybe his real calling was to be a song writer.

A dear friend who also lacked the ability to sing had faith that someday he could. Shortly before he passed away, he said, “In heaven, I’ll be able to sing. Look for me in the angel chorus.”

Meanwhile, I’ll croak along quietly in church and at Rotary. Maybe I should try writing a song. You know, a blues number: “Well, I woke up this morning and I still couldn’t sing…”

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