Friday, December 18, 2015

Music theory

When I was around the age of 7 or 8, I can distinctly remember decorating the family Christmas tree with my sister. We had just finished stringing the lights, and we were starting to hang some our old glass ornaments when, for some reason, we started whistling some holiday songs. We didn’t sing them. We just whistled. Loudly.

This went on for quite some time, and we progressively got louder and louder. This is when mom came out of the kitchen. She had a pretty tense look on her face and nervously, yet nicely, asked my sister and I to basically never ever whistle together under her roof again in her lifetime. Those weren’t her exact words, but by the way her eye was twitching, I could read between the lines.

I can see why mom was bothered. Quite honestly, my sister is horribly tone deaf, and her pitchy caterwauling whistle probably put mom over the edge. I knew that she brought my talent level down that day.

Now, I was always told that you should never be afraid to make a joyous noise, no matter how bad it is. I believe that actor Will Ferrell put it best in the movie “Elf” when his character Buddy said, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!”

I have always believed that, much like the little drummer boy, my gift to the world is my music.

Fast forward 40-some years into the future to a couple of weeks ago. I was riding in the passenger seat of our car while my wife took her place behind the steering wheel. I was bored, so I started messing around with the radio.

As we drove through the scenic countryside of Northern Illinois, we started listening to a radio station that happened to be playing Christmas music. I smiled. As the first notes of “Feliz Navidad” by José Feliciano started to come through the speakers, I looked at my wife and told her that I felt like making a joyous noise. She cringed because to her, that could mean one of two things. Either I was going to sing or I was about to break wind. Evidently, she didn’t enjoy either possible scenario.

As I reached over to turn up the volume just a little bit, I started belting it out with José. For those of you not familiar with the song, half of it is in English while the other half is in Spanish. I took Spanish for a year or so back in high school, but I don’t remember very many words. So instead of singing the actual words, I just rhythmically blurted out a bunch of nonsensical gibberish. I was in the zone.

As the third verse started to kick in, my wife inexplicably turned the volume down. I asked her what the deal was. She slowly turned her head toward mine, and then I saw it. The exact same twitchy-eye stare that l had seen from my mother back in the 1970s.

My wife proceeded to inform me I really needed to stop singing. I believe she used the term “horrible” to describe my joyous noise. Could it truly be that I’m not as good of a singer as I’ve always believed myself to be? I mean I realize that I’m no Art Garfunkel, but could I really be that bad?

Impossible, I thought. In my head, my voice can really rock it. Since then, I’ve really started to pay attention to what comes out of my mouth when I sing. At church the other day, I came to a startling revelation during “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” It has to do with my vocal range. It is rather limited to say the least. I came to the epiphany that I only sing one note. Instead of my voice going up and down, it actually just gets louder and softer.

The other thing I realized is that the particular note that I sing has never been used in any song ever written during the entire history of mankind. How disappointing.

But I’m not going to let this get me down. I still believe that every now and then, you just have to let it out and sing loud and proud, no matter if it is only one incredibly inaudible musical note. It just has to be done.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m feeling the need to let out another resounding, joyous noise. You might want to crack the window a little bit.

Have a Merry Christmas. Talk to you next year.

You can contact Wallace at You can follow him on his blog at

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