Global Mom: Winging It and Singing It

After today’s post, there will be two more that  specifically describe some special professional singing opportunities I was blessed to have in Norway. Why do I bore you with all this? Did you come to this blog (or will you come to Global Mom) for a run down of recitals?  I hope it’s clear there are several reasons I hang on this note for so long.  In Global Mom I want to show, not merely tell, what it means to leave a promising trajectory in one geography (New York) and transplant it elsewhere (Norway). That’s helpful, I think, for those who are reluctant to move internationally because they fear not being able to parlay their identity and professional/creative pursuits from one place to another. I also want to share how that very effort knit me– knit us as a family –to an entire people, a people with an exceptional love of all music, and how Norwegians were so welcoming and supportive.

Beyond all those reasons, I’m painting a canvas of Norway in this section of the book, and these intimate stories give that canvas depth, perspective and texture.

So . . . continued from the scene where you last found me singing a Norwegian sheep herder’s song with four lumberjack types and Ole the accordion player under the moonlit mountains . . .

From Global Mom: A Memoir

**

. . .I don’t think it gets much better than this.

Unless you’re doing a screen test for a Norwegian television commercial for  [can I say this here?]  feminine hygiene products:

“Fine, fine, that was just fine, Melissa. Let’s just try it one more time, and this time even more enthusiasm.  All right?”
“No problem. Enthusiasm? Got it!” I responded in Norwegian. I’d gotten the script just that morning from my agent, and had drilled it in the car on the way to this recording studio on the northern edge of town. I clear my throat, mess up my hair a bit (my enthused look), stare deep into the black hole of the camera, and start afresh:

“Now I dare to try on whatever clothes I like on whatever day of the month!”  Beaming, I pick up a small, imagined cardboard box from an imagined counter off to my right, and flirt with the camera, adding, “Always Ultra Feminine pads with wings! So you can really fly!”

“Super! Cut!” someone calls out and the man holding the hanging microphone lets his arms drop with a grunt.

A woman in a sound booth steps out and all I see in the shadows are the hem of her short denim skirt and boots. “Now remind us, Melissa, you’re from . . . let me see . . . Trømsø? Or was it. . .” she’s flipping through some papers, “from Bodø? You’re from the north I can tell, am I right?”

“From the west, actually.  The western States, actually.”

“Hmm? Really? Interesting. Hey, can we put some more on the tape here?” the woman asks. “Like, I don’t know, Melissa. . .Uh. . . Can you sing?”

“If you’d like me to, yes.”

“Give us an American song, is that good?” I can’t tell who said that, but I think the voice has come from the mike guy who is no more than a shadowy shape on top of green Converse All Stars right outside the glare of white spotlight. I shield my eyes with both hands, like I’m looking into a solar eclipse.

“Sure, well, okay, let’s see,” I stall. “What’s your favorite American song?”

Mike guy has a face, I can now see it as he steps to the right.  And he looks exactly like a teenaged Ron Howard.  Reddish hair, fair eyelashes on smiley eyes that make him look vulnerable and also kind to foreigners, baggy dark denim jeans on a pole-thin frame.  I’ve claimed him as my friend. If it comes to it, I’ll get him to sing back-up.

He’s quick with a favorite song and starts whistling it right there from the dark.

By “rainbow, way up high” I’ve taken over because, like millions of people, I know this tune by heart.  I sing it a capella, into the baking but also calming heat of four huge spotlights. I sing it all the way through. All the time from “there’s a land that I heard of ” to “why, oh, why can’t I?” under all that text and simple melody, I’m scratching my inner head, laughing a bit to myself, asking how did I get here? But also feeling like I had fully awakened in this country like Dorothy awakens in her black and white comfort, that there’s no place like this home.

At the same time, my agent was deep into plans for that concert tour the next year.  We’d done publicity photos and a demo CD.  He was contacting venues. We’d had preliminary meetings to pin down calendar details.  “You must bring your husband and children, too,” he’d said, “It would be a great cultural experience for them.  We’ll let that son of yours play on the drums between shows.”

Also at about this same time, Randall’s company was discussing a possible transfer back to the States or a transfer elsewhere outside of the States.  Randall and I, however, were lying next to each other in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering, “Ever thought about. . . just staying here? For good?”

And, “Do you also just want to stay here for good?”

And, “What do we need to do to stay here for good?”

**
© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Global Mom: An Ambassador

There would be many other singing engagements over the two years that would remain in Norway. There were months when I was learning new music every week, my children wandering in and around the piano or sometimes around other vocalists or orchestra members. I was recruited to sing at all sorts of functions; the library’s opening social, a 50th birthday gathering, the kindergarten’s closing social, the local book club, a corporate mid-year social, a neighboring town’s Late Winter Song Evening, another town’s Early Spring Poetry Reading, a high school’s mid-spring chamber concert, and the frequent American Broadway potpourri.
Breech after flagrant breach of the sisters’ pact.

When invited with three other American musicians to give a private concert at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence, I took along nine-year-old Parker. He sat primly in his navy suit and bow tie, his hair parted on the left side and slicked flat like a confederate soldier.

“You have to sit right in that seat, honey,” I told him, pointing to an upholstered chair in the front row, “Because in one song, I’m going to give you the signal like this,” I nodded just once and discreetly, “and then I’ll come get you with my hand just like this,” I took his fingers in mine, “and then I’ll bring you uon front of the audience. Then I’ll sing right to you. Right into your eyes. Kneeling in front of you. Got it?”

“Got it. I don’t have to sing, too, do I?”

“No, you only have to listen. And you also have to help me not mess up, buddy. Can you do that?”
It was “Not While I’m Around,” a lyrical, haunting piece from Stephen Sondheim’s dark musical, “Sweeney Todd.” When I pulled the young boy with a bow tie and confederate hair to my side and knelt on the stage and sang right into his eyes, I nearly abandoned all efforts at composure. I nearly forgot about the respectable audience, the professional distance, I almost forgot about Mr. and Mrs. Ambassador sitting right over my shoulder in a gown and suit. I nearly let emotion seep into my vocal chords, a perilous thing. But I was composed and tried not to feel the moistness of his palms as I held his two hands, tried not to sense a quiver climbing up my sternum. I just kept singing the tender tune a bit baldly, I think; “Nothing can harm you,” I sang to my child, “Not while I’m around.”

And I finished, as I remember, with a smile so totally incongruous with the broader context from which that song is taken – a smile, now that I think about it, like that of a weather channel person waiting for the camera to blink on – I ended smiling with my head tilted, squeezing his skinny suited shoulders, giving him a peck on the cheek and dismissing him with a tap on his rump, clapping the fingertips of one my right hand on the palm of my left,  nodding to him and then to the audience, “Too cute, isn’t he?”

(Some minutes in life you revisit to reinhabit their sweetness. Others you revisit to reinhabit their sweetness and to mentally redo them altogether.)

After a performance with fellow artists. The Great Dane favored us with a solo.  It was in Danish, of course.  And great.

 

 

I didn’t take the children to all of my performances. One such, I described in my Journal:

Flå is a small arts community tucked deep in the folds of Hallingdal. Flå had invited an “American Broadway Singer,” to appear at their annual Arts Days celebration.

I stood in a glitzy American gown on an outdoor stage with microphone in hand and sang three hours of show tunes and big band standards flanked by twenty-five somewhat rigid but nevertheless hearty and well-amplified members of Hallingdal’s civic “Big Band.” The locals, robust and impossibly well-scrubbed, wielding sausages and wearing boiled wool knickers, stomped patterns across the pavilion’s dance floor till all the Aquavit ran dry and the moon peered over the rough ridges of Hallingdal’s towering walls. I went through everything the band had in its repertoire; Benny Goodman, the Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, Glenn Miller, even Neil Diamond.  Which was a good fun even though I felt strangely like a disco ball rented for a country picnic.

But then there was this last number, a traditional Norwegian Saeter tune I’d prepared just for this event. When it was announced, five band members, rosy-cheeked, woolen knickered, flannel plaid, stood to join me.  Against the evening chill I slipped the bass player’s boiled wool jacket around my shoulders.  Three of us sang tight harmony first with Ole on the accordion, then all six of us sang in a capella harmony, arms wrapped around one another’s waists or shoulders.  We howled like mountain sheep herders under the moon’s perfect spotlight. And on the way home, driving alone down that ancient black canyon, I decided things don’t get much better than this.

**
© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.