A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE July 4 – Tone is fundamental to harmony

An innocent question brings public television to a halt.

Special K and I were watching one of those public television telethon fund-raisers last weekend. You know — reality TV that showcases a performer who is good enough to make you want to own their CD, but not quite so good that you already have it in your collection.

The production format is simple and inexpensive. They broadcast a CD that the performer has recorded. Instead of cutting for commercials, they switch you to the studio every-so-often so they can run an advertisement to invite you to contribute to commercial-free public broadcasting.

The star of the video is usually in the studio to gush on and on about what a big great thing public broadcasting is.

The show we were watching featured the a cappella group Straight No Chaser. Neither Special K nor I had ever heard of them before, but that just shows that we need to get out more.

If you’ve never heard of them, then maybe you need to get out more too.

Now don’t get me wrong – I like public television. These stations provide a nice contrast to the usual schlock being aired by the commercial broadcasters.

Telethons are an important source of revenue for US public television.

The more you give, the more swag they send back to you. Something along the lines of a minimum $60 pledge will earn you a copy of the CD they are playing. For $90 they will toss in a second CD and for $150 you get a pair of tickets to their next live performance in Detroit.

The show they were airing was a recording of Straight No Chaser’s act they had performed in Atlantic City casinos. It featured ‘songs through the decades’.

You can only fit so much on one CD, and with the number of songs that have been put out ‘through the decades’ it was inevitable they were going to be singing fast and moving the show right along.

They didn’t have time to sing all the words to every song and quite often they would jump from one song right into another.

At one point they had a guy wearing an Elvis outfit and a bunch of others dressed up like the Beach Boys – all onstage at the same time, doing some sort of battle of the vocal cords.

It was a little bit hard to follow and the distraction was wearing me down. It was about then that I noticed another voice had joined in and was singing along with the TV show.

And this is when I messed up. I must have been suffering sensory overload because I just opened my mouth without even thinking.

I looked over at Special K and asked her, “Are you singing?”

It may have been my tone of voice but for some reason she took it the wrong way.

She immediately stopped singing, reached for the remote and switched to another channel.

The new show had singers too, plus a band thrown in – it was the Lawrence Welk Show.

She made some snide remark that this music was more for my age group.

That’s what happens when you marry someone who was born a few years out from your own birthdate – it just provides him or her an easy hook where they can hang a cutting comment.

At least Lawrence Welk kept everyone singing the same song most of the time. Sometimes they might do a round of Row, Row, Row Your boat.

Her comment carried sting for me though – the Lawrence Welk Show was the first live group I ever saw.


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