Willie T & Doctor X

Why I Sing

 

For me, there has always been something special about singing. My earliest memories of it being such a meaningful thing in my life go back to elementary school, where I used to sing in the choir. I especially enjoyed singing in Latin. That ancient language of religious ritual that seemed so wonderful and mysterious to me as a child only heightened the experience (I still love the sound of it in song.) ....
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Back in high school, in Connecticut, when Doctor X and I started our first band, I was a bass player, and most of the singing I did was just back-up vocals, though I did sing lead for a few songs. When I was in college, I joined the choir, and was a baritone in Dr. Henley Denmead's mixed male/female chorus. My last year there, Dr. Denmead had the bass section of his dreams--lots of men with deep voices—and he was determined to use it to full advantage. It was a large group, and we made a BIG sound. I will never forget performing Psalm 90 (text by Moses, music by Charles Ives.) It was a powerful, nearly atonal piece (twelve-tone?) I distinctly recall one line in the verse, "For all our days are passed away in thy wrath, we spend our days as a tale that is told." We started out in unison, and then the tone clusters got thicker and thicker until we got to the word "wrath", where it became a thunderous, dissonant 27-note chord, with no more than two people (out of 50) singing any one note of it! (We had to split up into groups of two to rehearse that part.) It was so chilling that you could FEEL the wrath of God! Then it started thinning towards the end of the line, where, as in the beginning, we ended in unison. There was a feeling of great peace at that point (as though we had been spared the wrath, and all was calm once more!)

For me, there has always been something special about singing. My earliest memories of it being such a meaningful thing in my life go back to elementary school, where I used to sing in the choir. I especially enjoyed singing in Latin. That ancient language of religious ritual that seemed so wonderful and mysterious to me as a child only heightened the experience (I still love the sound of it in song.) Back in high school, in Connecticut, when Doctor X and I started our first band, I was a bass player, and most of the singing I did was just back-up vocals, though I did sing lead for a few songs. When I was in college, I joined the choir, and was a baritone in Dr. Henley Denmead's mixed male/female chorus. My last year there, Dr. Denmead had the bass section of his dreams--lots of men with deep voices—and he was determined to use it to full advantage. It was a large group, and we made a BIG sound. I will never forget performing Psalm 90 (text by Moses, music by Charles Ives.) It was a powerful, nearly atonal piece (twelve-tone?) I distinctly recall one line in the verse, "For all our days are passed away in thy wrath, we spend our days as a tale that is told." We started out in unison, and then the tone clusters got thicker and thicker until we got to the word "wrath", where it became a thunderous, dissonant 27-note chord, with no more than two people (out of 50) singing any one note of it! (We had to split up into groups of two to rehearse that part.) It was so chilling that you could FEEL the wrath of God! Then it started thinning towards the end of the line, where, as in the beginning, we ended in unison. There was a feeling of great peace at that point (as though we had been spared the wrath, and all was calm once more!)

While in college (I minored in music, by the way) I started to explore vocal technique. I took a voice class there, where I learned, among other things, what my vocal "instrument" was composed of, and how to use those components. I also learned a few things about breath control that have served me very well. Outside of class, I was running the sound for the weekly college coffeehouse during this time, and in between sets by the featured performer we held an open mic. Once in a while I would get up on the stage with a guitar and sing a few songs. It was a lot of fun, and very different from playing with the band (You're out there, front and center--no one to hide behind!) I discovered the lower register of my voice, which I started to use more and more professionally with the band, which broke up right around the time I graduated.

Afterwards, I moved to Boston, fully intending to play bass in a rock & roll band, preferably one with some record label interest. At some point early on however, I switched gears, and started booking myself (solo at first, later with Doctor X) in coffeehouses around the city, and in colleges all over New England. It was then that I really started to develop as a singer. I started listening intently to singers who could really express themselves vocally—people like Randy Burns, a native of my home state (Conn.)—who could deliver a song with real passion.

That, in the end, is what it's all about for me—the passion! Ilove to lose myself entirely in a song. When it's really working, it's as though my whole being has been invaded by some force that takes complete possession of my body and soul, and uses them to make itself felt as well as heard. I feel like I've been transported to another world that exists for only 3-4 minutes, but is light-years away from the real one in which I live. There's nothing more liberating, or cathartic than to sing fearlessly, and with reckless abandon. I love it when that energy is transferred (from wherever it originates) through me to the audience, and then back again until the circuit is complete. It's really fun to connect with an audience that way—to make people feel what you feel. But even when I'm alone, at home, or in the studio, it is still so soul-satisfying. Everyone should sing, if for nothing more than the sheer joy if it! We are all born with a voice. Whether or not you can carry a tune, whether you perform in public, or sing for fun with a group of friends, or just all by yourself in the shower, you should do it often, without being self-conscious, and just let go. Try it! You'll be surprised at how good it makes you feel, no matter what you're feeling at the time!

Best,

Willie T