The music is pulsing; beyond the bright stage lights, the sound of the audience releasing restless energy is barely audible over the harsh percussion. The mic within an arm’s length stands at attention as my fellow singers and I sway to the tempo, priming our bodies and minds. But first, The Star, the featured soloist struts from offstage grabbing the front mic and cries out the first notes of an audience favorite to thunderous applause. A few measures in, we back-up singers step forward, blending the perfect harmony to highlight the solo. Joy. There is nothing like making music together.
Okay, this is my next life. Lacking the talent and now aging out of the possibilities, I am preparing for my next reincarnation. Back-up singers have incredible talent, often surpassing the featured singer. Check out the documentary “20 feet From Stardom”. Back -up singers dance with the beat at least appearing enthused and then join in on the harmony in the middle of a phrase. They often work with various performers and become renown in the music world while unknown to the world at large. All while never getting to sing the melody. Suits me fine: I would avoid the spotlight while reveling in participation.
A recent visit to the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale (a MUST see) added another dream to my future lives as I learned more about session artists. Session artists are instrumentalists who play in recording studios accompanying featured vocalists or musicians. Unknown to the general population, they too enjoy fame within the music world, and are more recorded than any other musicians. If you have listened to much pop music, you have heard The Wrecking Crew.
All these musicians and singers display outstanding talent and versatility, eschewing fame. They work with exacting lead singers, temperamental divas and instrumentalists over long days and multiple recording takes. They must be introverts.
A third career has been a dream of mine for many years and, thanks to COVID-19, I am tasting it in this life while planning to pursue it more fully in the next. (I need a big head start.) This career is music arranger/orchestrator. Just as I am fascinated that a visual artist knows to place one small gray fleck in a massive painting, I marvel that an orchestrator knows to put a cowbell (more, please) or a single flute trill above a full orchestra.
As I record music tracks for virtual and drive-in church worship services, coordinating with a singer to complete and clean-up the final product, I am becoming more appreciative of this craft. Besides being a fun way to stay out of trouble (i.e. avoid people and COVID) and stretch my mind, it has revealed the great amount of work required for performing musicians to optimize the quality of production in the recording studio and then replicate it live.
I confess that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and I am retired! That it is a privilege to see endless possibilities does not escape me. I am going to be more prepared next time around.