It all started when Sam sat down with his guitar and started to play, “Only Living Boy in New York”. Sam has a good voice. Sam went to Colby College and was on the a capella team. team? maybe it’s not a team; maybe it’s a choir. we’ll call it a choir.
We’d just come back from the beach. we sprawled out on the couch, each wrapped up in the lull that happens after a day in salty, sun and sand. It was later afternoon and the sky melted down into rich yellows and the air cooled. i fall in love with dusk every day.
Katie, Em and Sam had come up to my parent’s house for the weekend to hang out. I was dog-sitting while my parents were up in Camden living out my father’s dream of watching sailboats in the harbor of that salty seaside town he had frequented as a deckhand as a boy. Going back after nearly 45 years was going to be one beautiful trip down memory lane for him and a special moment he wanted to share with his beautiful bride. And with Earl never having touched our great state, it was all in the cards for a lovely, cool, blue-skied weekend for all!
So there we were, the four of us, half-dozing. Sam tooling around on his guitar, Emily about to hop in the shower, when he played the first few chords of Simon + Garfunkel’s beautiful melody and decided we could all harmonize. okay first you should know i have this thing. I want to be able to harmonize. and I can’t. mind you, I can sing like a normal person. I mean I’m no Zoey Dechanel, but I can lay down a mean Jean Valjean/Javier impression and you better believe I can hold my own on most tracks on my iPod. But when it comes to harmonizing, I got nothing. zip, zilch, nada. So you think, “Big deal, Miller. It’s not like it’s a big part of your life.” and you’d be right. but I still want to do it. And I still pester anyone who can do it, to teach me how (ask Pete Harvey how annoying I was on our way to Killington last winter). But, you guys. 20 minutes and a few dozen unsuccessful tries later, we nailed it. and I mean NAILED it. Sam, the patient teacher, gave me one note. ONE NOTE. And whatever everybody else was doing, I just focused on that one note and guess what dudes? I did it.
This led to ecstatic leaps from my side of the couch. I sounded like a two year old who’d been tossed in the air, “Again! Again!”
So, after nailing it a few more times and feeling hopped up on the good energy and the beautiful beautiful consonance of our voices, we got to talking about how harmony has such an effect on music (another gentle reminder that I can appreciate this as a listener, though I still cannot contribute to it:)).
I remembered a time not too long ago when a friend shared with me this video of Glen Hansard singing a new, untitled song at The Wiltern in LA last year. he asks the crowd to sing the chorus with him. then he asks those who are brave enough to harmonize and what follows is wonderful. I hope you enjoy.