Steve's Yarns-- All those years growing up and living
in Oklahoma, California, Arizona, Texas, and Africa.....
Ain't done growing up 'til I get over on the other side :-)




EDITOR:
Steve Van Nattan

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RITE OF PASSAGE- SINGING

The day when a boy can sing double bass during hymn singing

 

 

 

Do you remember when you could finally hit the low note in the bass while singing a hymn, you men that is. Then, one day you ventured into double bass territory, and you found out you could sing most of it.

When I was in Rift Valley Academy at Kijabe, Kenya, a missionary kids' boarding school, we had Sunday afternoon services in English for the missionaries to give them an experience they had, and missed, from back in the USA. It was not closed to Africans, but few came because they had to be very proficient in English to enjoy the service.

We guys would sit in the back rows, mostly in a show of independence. But, during the congregational singing we all sang out boldly to prove our voices had changed, as least from about tenth grade onwards.

There was always one fellow who was long and tall and had a very deep singing voice. He would lead the bass, and if you were new to bass because your voice had only recently changed, you got a seat next to El Basso Primero. The first rite of passage was that you could stay with him, on key, and hit the lowest notes.

If the famous Amos bass singer did not appreciate you tagging along with him, he would drop into double bass, and there you were without a mentor and back to waiting to evolve a bit more.

When we boys would sing, it was not uncommon for one of the adult missionaries nearby to glance over to see who was bolding over the double bass. When this happened, we all pretended we did not see the glances so that the missionary, a man usually, was left in confusion as to which of us could do double bass. This is very satisfying to us boys in the process of puberty. They loved to accomplish some adult art form correctly and keep the adults in confusion as to who was shining forth.

The red letter day was when the missionary checking us out told the missionary singers in the men's quartet about the long tall double bass man in the back row. This was a trick for the missionary snoop because he had to, over several Sundays, watch to see who was standing next to whom. By the process of elimination he could zero in on the boy who had the deep voice.

We all celebrated the day when our pal, long tall El Basso, was invited to sing with the adult men's quartet. We did not resent that we were not chosen because we knew we could not meet the high (low) standard of an adult male quartet. We chattered and talked about how our pal was ushered into the heanenlies to sing with the men's quartet, and we often made compliments to the guy, which of course he inhaled with satisfaction.

Then one Sunday, as you were sitting right next to old El Basso himself, you made a serious effort, took a deep breath on the way to that double bass low note in Standing on The Promises, and voila, you hit it, and just about with the same volume as old El Basso. The best feeling came when El Basso turned and looked at you and smiled at you, as if the say, "Welcome to the club, Buddy."

Years later, when you were in college back in the USA, you would attend a Southern Gospel Concert, and for the first time in your life, you heard JD Sumner hit a triple bass note. This was a bit humiliating of course. You had not really made it into the ultimate club yet. So, you set out to stretch the vocal cords to reach the basement.

And, I have never made it. I am not tall enough, so my vocal cords have not been stretched that long. Three notes off the low end of the piano is way beyond me.

JD, can I stand by you some time when you are singing and see if the magic will roll off of you and move me to the basement?

 

LINKS:

Triple bass at a Southern Gospel Concert
This looks like four maître d's on break from the Eleven Madison Park Restaurant.

 

 

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