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  • Writer's pictureP.J. Powell

Singing for you during the pandemic

One of my lifelong music friends made a request to me and a subset of our high school choir friends: a mutual friend is awfully ill. Would we consider performing a song together for that friend? Of course we would!

We all live in different states and this would be virtual, but our friend pulled together old friends to participate, plus our friend’s lovely daughter, for a total of six singers, one production engineer, and one MC.

I felt oddly qualified to participate. I have never been afraid to speak to a group (or sing karaoke in front of what turned out to be maybe 500 people in a random Vegas bar, by the time my song came up).

Plus, since COVID hit, I had been on a team guiding Fortune 500 leaders to make selfie videos to stay connected to their people and ease into what was the new home-office-normal for the foreseeable future. The leaders rose to the occasion and each of them truly shined, but some of them definitely found it challenging to star in and direct their own video message. I didn’t see what the big deal was – until I was the one who had to make a selfie video.

I could do this. I read music, I told myself. It’s just singing, I told myself. I co-host the Write Away podcast with my write-or-die, Nat Lockett. I own a Yeti microphone. My high school vocal ensemble could hold its own anywhere.

Forget all that now. Time was of the essence. I didn’t know much of the song and we each just had a couple days to turn in our individually recorded tracks, and I haven’t sight-sung in more than one decade. Oh, and I don’t do any of the daily breathing exercises I’m supposed to do to make me sound like a confident woman instead of Kermit’s mother-in-law.

Let me circle back to those leaders we asked to do their selfie videos. Leaders, I salute you. I could never have anticipated the levels of uncertainty that come from putting yourself out there when you don’t want to let people down. Especially when your friends are putting their whole hearts into it, going above and beyond. Did I mention that the music professor amongst this group, Krista Jobson, wrote a four-part vocal arrangement of the song just for us? And her partner, musician and professor Hector Rodriguez, volunteered his time and expertise to do the audio/video production for us? I sang and sang and flubbed and sang until I was hoarse and couldn’t do another round. Then, like I’m sure some of the time-strapped leaders had to do with their selfie videos, I chose what I thought was the “least awful” take and went with God.

The very lovely and completely unanticipated rewards: hearing some of my favorite people sing individually (guys it was a shared folder and I know we all listened to each other’s tracks), seeing the final product, and sharing this performance. First, with our ill friend. We were told that the song brought out a liveliness in them that hadn’t been seen for a few weeks. That they asked multiple times to hear it again, and best of all, their response was, “They all came home to me.”

Soon someone in the group wanted to share it on Facebook. With everyone’s consent, they did. And our friends loved it. They asked for it to be shared more broadly, so now I’m sharing it with you.

This is a group of friends singing for someone they love, with enough love to spare for YOU during these trying times, if you need it. You can hear world-famous ensembles that move you to tears, and I encourage you to, but this isn’t that. This is just us, giving what we can.

Much love.

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