Right Intention, Wrong Advice

Kenneth C. Hoffman

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Not long after I added the hobby of four part a capella singing to my repertoire of interests, my younger sister, Diane, mentioned that she liked singing in the church choir. Being an amateur singer myself, I was impressed. I asked her to give me a sample and she eagerly complied.

"Amazing Grace" was the song she chose, and she sang it with confidence and power. At its completion, I politely clapped as she waited for my comments. Thinking of myself as a beginning expert, I proceeded to explain that although she sang it well, I thought her voice was too breathy and her vibrato too pronounced. She asked me to explain and I went on for some time, adding that I didn't think she'd make it as a professional singer, but would be fine for the chorus. All very uppity and know-it-all. She took the criticism quietly and promised to hear our quartet the next time she was in our area.

Five years later I got a postcard from Diane from the decks of a large cruise ship as it passed through the Panama Canal. She had been chosen to be the featured singer on the ship and even had the floating nightclub named after her. In love with her keyboard player, they later married and settled in Florida. I was flabbergasted! My little sister who I thought couldn't sing a note - famous?

I found out why when three months later I received a tape recording of Diane singing to the accompaniment of a small trio. Her voice spoke to my mind, projecting the words with emotion and like Peggy Lee sounded as if she were singing just to you. A southern drawl enhanced the pure melodic tones as she performed nine of the favorite pop songs of the day. She had quite a good range and phrased the words like a female Frank Sinatra. Her arrangements were striking and individual, far better than even the original hits. My wife, Marianne, who is quite particular about who she likes, stated that Diane sang better than any of the pop singers on the radio. We, of course, wrote Diane of our amazement and wished her success in her new trade. So much for my “professional" advice.

I am the baritone in a barbershop quartet called “The Bell Tones"


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