Cumberland Times-News

Maude McDaniel - Living

May 19, 2014

Torn between failing in two different fields

— Which do I like better, singing or writing?

That's a tough question to answer.

Singing's got it all over writing as far as when I started (at about 5 in the church choir) but writing is certainly a close second. I have somewhere a collection of poems that I wrote from about eight on and I have the feeling that they are lost for a reason! As I remember, they were pretty awful, not at all the kind of effort an aspiring writer would be proud to quote 75 years later!

As far as excitement, and, in a sense, disaster, are concerned, singing's tops, and I can give you several examples. One happened right here in Cumberland: At a recital. I did Mozart's "Alleluia," flawlessly if I do say so myself, until the very last measure, when my high C just didn't show up for the performance.

It wasn't that I messed it up, flatted it, or sharped it. It just wasn't there. We all waited around for a beat or two to see if it would make it, but it never did. (Actually, at such a time your best bet is to just go ahead with your performance and pretend everything is turning out just ducky and let the audience worry about their hearing instead. Of course, the only thing that does is preserve your public face — it doesn't help your sense of pride very much.)

Another exciting moment in my singing life happened at a recital at college. I chose to do a cute little art song in German that had five verses, and I did fine until the fifth. Then, for some reason, all of it went out of my head. What could I do? I summoned a big smile and sang German nonsense, along the order of "Mischt nisch de gollen alla sonjitude" for a whole very long eight lines and nobody knew enough German to tell the difference. Except my German professor who was sitting in the front row and got a very puzzled expression on her face. Afterward, we never discussed that particular song.

There have been other musical disasters I remember, and probably some I don't remember. (Are we counting the time in grade school — I have told you about this before — when I fell on my violin going up the steps to the stage in front of the entire eighth grade assembly? That one I didn't actually remember for about 10 years, when one day around the age of 25 it all popped back into my mind, and I was able to laugh about it. Sort of.

A more corporate disaster was the college choir tour concert when all the tenor section got sick in the middle of a concert. All at the same time; Heaven knows what they had been eating. (Or drinking, although that wasn't the way of life in those days that it has become for so many college students nowadays. I don't understand why their parents pay the bills.)

Anyway, apparently all of them had a bite because suddenly, in the middle of a song our director looked up to find every single one of his tenor section sitting on the risers. (We had always been instructed that if we felt sick we should sit down and the director would get us out of there fast, but no one had ever expected a whole section to get knocked out at the same time.) They all hobbled out and the concert was suspended for a few minutes, until, suddenly they all got better and came back in and finished the concert. I never heard any reason for the sudden attack, but maybe some of them knew more than they told us.

I don't have any little stories about writing disasters, because you always get a second chance with the kind of writing I do. Some weeks I can't think of anything to write about in this column, but eventually, sometimes at the last minute, something comes to mind.

Of course, sometimes what comes to mind would be better off not written. One of my own poems comes to mind, one called "Serendipity." (The poetic form is something called a cinquain, which means two syllables on the first line and on each succeeding one, 4,6,8, and 2.)

I had hoped to express the incalculable need for, well, the incalculable, how the deep-seated yearning for meaning in life that we, all of us, live, keeps getting trumped by the everyday stuff.

Here is what happened, poetry as disaster:

Today

I'd planned to write

A poem but instead

I ended up here cleaning the

Bathroom

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.

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Maude McDaniel - Living
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    That's a tough question to answer.
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