Monday, March 1, 2010

ONE TWO THREE etc. etc. etc.

At the end of last year, I declared that this new year would be the year of getting back on the beat and finding a steady rhythm in life again after being out of sync for so long.

‘How’s that workin’ out for you?’, you might ask.

Well, in my last post I came clean and admitted my love of the musical, and since then I’ve had all kinds of show tunes running through my head. Even one about rhythm.

Remember that scene in “The King and I” where Mrs. Anna is trying to teach the King of Siam how to dance? More specifically, polka? (and BTW fun facts to know and tell your friends but not really related to this post – I saw Yul Brenner perform this in person. Not on Broadway, but later in a traveling company).

She first tries to get him to feel the beat and counts it out for him:

one – two – three – AND

one – two – three – AND

He tries it together with her.

He counts: ONE – two – three – ONE – two – three – ONE – two – three.

Which doesn’t seem to go with her one – two – three – AND count.

He then declares, “Something wrong.”

“I know. I forget AND.”

Then they dance happily ever after with the “clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen…”

Well. I experienced the one-two-threes myself this past weekend.

My father-in-law, aka Pop, is visiting with us now. His home is three hours away. When he comes to visit us, he usually stays for a little longer than he used to when my mother-in-law was alive and with him. She would always tell him she was ready to go home. Without her, he’s not as eager to leave. I can certainly understand that and he’s always welcome in my home.

When he’s here, the rhythm of our daily lives changes a little bit. Our food habits are one example. We avoid Taco Bell, at which Scott and I usually dine about twice a week. Pop just doesn’t like the “spicy” food. So, we eat more sandwiches. That’s OK too. It’s just different.

The TV is another thing. Pop likes Fox News and Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and Nascar. I can take small doses of all of those, but then I have to go and do something else. I can’t watch an entire hour or three of any of that. I certainly don’t mind him watching it. It’s just different than what the TV schedule is when it’s just Scott and I around the house. I’m usually tuned in to the Food Network. I should probably learn to do with a little less TV anyway.

One of the things Pop wanted to do during this visit was to attend a concert that was taking place nearby. The group he wanted to hear was the Primitive Quartet. So, we went this past Friday night. The music they make is a little bit out of my comfort zone; not a concert I would have attended without Pop’s interest and company. I guess you would classify their music as bluegrass southern gospel. I’m not really sure why they call themselves a quartet because there are six men in the group, but oh well. This post is about not being able to count anyway.

The music was a little twangy for my taste, but their presentation was intriguing. There were no soundtracks. Five of the six men played a string instrument while they sang. The acoustic sound was just their voices and their instruments. No electronic sounds at all. Sometimes they would swap the instruments out with each other, showing proficiency with multiple instruments. A violin, an upright bass, two guitars, and a mandolin.

Unlike the Fox News channel, I was able to sit through an hour of the Primitive Quartet without wanting to flip the remote to Chef Duff and the gang.

Most of the audience was like Pop, and rightly so; really into that kind of music. They sang along and clapped and responded to the lyrics with lots of “hallelujahs” and “praise the Lords.”

A lot of bluegrass music has a waltz-type beat. You know, like:

OOOM–pa–pa. OOOM–pa–pa. OOOM–pa–pa.

Or in real words:

ONE–two–three. ONE–two–three.

It’s a very simple and distinctive cadence that you can both hear and feel, even for the rhythm-challenged individual.

The audience began to clap along with a particular song that moved with this OOOM-pa-pa rhythm. Except, they weren’t clapping in sync with that distinctive waltz-like pulse.

I felt the beat of the music as:

OOOM – pa – pa – OOOM – pa – pa

ONE – two – three – ONE – two – three

rest – CLAP – CLAP – rest – CLAP – CLAP

The clapping, however, ignored the emphasis on the ONE and/or the OOOM and went like this:

CLAP – rest – CLAPCLAP – rest – CLAPCLAP

Try waltzing to that. It’s like they were two beats behind.

In the words of the King of Siam, “Something wrong.”

I got the giggles. Mostly it tickled me that no one clapping could tell they were ignoring the over-emphasized down beat or that they were out of sync with the obvious rhythm of the music. One person started it, and as with that concert mob-mentality, everyone else got caught up in it and joined it – and didn’t stop until the song was over.

And then the next song the Primitive Quartet sang that had 3 beats to each measure, the audience did exactly the same thing.

It made the concert a lot more enjoyable for me, and not because I was laughing at people who were clueless about the beat. Absolutely not. I was laughing because I could finally hear the rhythm in my life again and I realized that it is not the same one that everyone else hears. As a matter of fact, I might be the only one that hears it.

And now I have “clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen. Shall we dance? Shall we dance? Shall we dance?”

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful. Jeremiah 31: 3-4

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