Monday, December 17, 2007

Soul Music

We hear the same songs over and over at the holidays. They are all over the radio or on the 200th repeat of Christmas specials and so you sort of just sing along on auto-pilot. You probably sing outloud or maybe just in your head but mostly you aren't hearing the words or at least the meaning behind them. Sure, I'll remember to laugh the HAHAHA at the right time when singing about dashing through the snow but the non secular songs usually sit in my brain as simply another pretty melody.

When I watch performances like Oh Holy Night from this year's Erie, PA stop along the Joyful Noise 2007 tour, I am reminded how much Clay Aiken's Christmas songs have really allowed me to connect with the words again. Perhaps it is because he connects with the music in such a way that you have no choice but to listen to the words. He turns his soul inside out and paints the words onto yours.

This performance is made even more special as long time backup singer Angela Fisher was unable to be at the concert so Clay and Quiana Parler improvised some beautiful harmonies

Clay sings with his entire upper body on these songs through an oddly effective combination of movement and isolation. A good friend of mine commented that it is like he conducts himself, but I think he is conducting the words and the spirit of the song around the room. It is like it flows out of him and around him. You can almost see the words written in light, like something out of a Harry Potter movie.

He's also gotten incredibly good at telling a story while he sings. Again in Albany, we saw this with a new song that I had never heard called Welcome to our World by Chris Rice. Nanjeanne often talks about the great Barbara Cook who teaches a Master's class for singers. The premise of this class is that she teaches them to sing the reality of the song. Nan posted after we returned from two Christmas concerts in New York that Barbara would be proud of what Clay achieved on those memorable nights.

You know it is an incredibly moving performance when you realize you forgot to breathe and you are rendered immobile in your seat even after he has left the stage.

But less I fall too far down the schmoopy hole, I find that he makes secular songs more fun too. Singing jazzy arrangements by Jesse Vargas and others, he calls on Elvis and other legends of Christmas music for inspiration. This medley gets me smiling every time. I couldn't find a video of Elvis doing it but I did find a montage with him singing in the background. They both go a-walking but Clay's winter hit the lottery since he goes a-walkin through a Winner Wonderland. Here's a partial sampling.

Combining this voice with this ability to both interpret and entertain promises to be on full display in January when he starts his limited run on Broadway in Monty Python's Spamalot. Not to mention, we'll get the same hair color every night which is a Christmas miracle in itself.

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1 comment:

shell said...

I enjoyed reading the blog and watching the videos. I find that even if I'm just listening to the audio of My Grown-Up Christmas List and Welcome To Our World, Clay sings them in a way that brings the meaning of the words right out for me.