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Carrying the harmony

Published December 12. 2009 09:00AM

I have never had the melody. Whether it was in singing or playing an instrument, I have been the 'harmony' girl.

As a young kid, I started piano lessons and learned quickly that the melody was easy - one finger usually did it. But, the other fingers were always busy with harmony notes. They were harder to learn and more demanding.

When I started playing the clarinet, I found that the second or third part was more enjoyable for me. Instead of blasting out the melody, I tooted comfortably in the background, adding depth and flavor to the band or orchestra.

When my sisters and I sang as a trio, I performed either as an alto or a soprano descant - never the melody. As a matter of fact, it became easier for me to sing harmony than the melody. I would find myself singing harmony even to Christmas carols in church. My daughter still gets tickled every time I burst into harmony during "Happy Birthday" at the grandkids' parties. Heck, anybody can sing the melody. It takes a good ear to add supplementary notes.

Recently, I became the proud owner of a bass clarinet. Its former owner died and his family gave me the instrument. I had always played the B flat clarinet, so the bass fingering wasn't unusual for me, since it is virtually the same.

What was very different was the style of music written for the bass clarinet. Actually, I never get to play the melody at all. So, what else is new, right? But, this music is so much fun to play - all the oompahs and throbbing rhythmic riffs! During marches, I find myself wishing I were young enough to dance while I'm playing. That's how much fun it is.

My musical experiences have taught me something special about life. Singing or playing the melody isn't all that wonderful. Being a part of the harmony makes more sense to me. The fullness of a musical piece doesn't reach its ultimate potential without the 'extra' parts. In the same way, a life can't reach its desired potential without the ability to be flexible and adaptable. Always singing the melody can make for a narrow-minded, inflexible, lifestyle.

Folks who know how to create harmony in music can also create harmony in life. Actually, harmony requires greater persistence and understanding. Next time you're singing something, try to sing anything but the melody. It will teach you a lesson about paying attention. It will also teach you to listen to your fellow musicians. To me, there's no better way to live.


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