Friday, August 03, 2012

Tess finds her voice

Last May Tess turned eleven. She wanted a talent show theme for her birthday party so we got a microphone and did some kareokee in the living room.  The girls really got into to performing for each other and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by their efforts. Fast forward to last Monday. Tess overhears Beth remarking that there is a talent show at the upcoming Union County Fair.
"I want to do that."
"What do you want to do?" Beth and I both imagined that maybe she'd play her fiddle.
"Sing."
The talent show was the next day. Tess picked a song by Adele and then later switched to Taylor Swift's "Mean". We found a karaoke track and burned a cd for her to use at the show as accompaniment. Tess already knew the lyrics by heart, but both Beth and I wondered if she had any inkling of what she was getting herself into. She seemed pretty unaffected by the prospect of getting onstage in a public venue. The next day, Beth had the idea of arranging for Tess to meet with her piano teacher Beth Dorny who has been supplementing piano instruction with some vocal coaching. They spent about forty minutes together and afterwards we headed to the fairgrounds for the show.  As we walked onto the grounds you could see Tess finally perceive the scale of the thing she had embarked upon. She began to openly question whether it was a good idea. Her head hung down and she clung to Beth's side. We met a boy with his mother. He was there to compete in the talent show too. He carried a box with a puppet inside. His talent? Ventriloquist. He had won his age group the year before. A cool one hundred dollars. The boy was eager for things to begin and engagingly forthcoming about his act as if he'd do it right there at the slightest hint of interest.  Tess seemed shy by contrast. I began wonder how this would all play out.

As we looked over the stage and chatted with the sound guy another mother and her daughter came up. It was her first time too. It was nice for Tess to see that someone else was in the same boat. We took seats in the front row and waited for the show to start. The participants performed in the order they signed up...a mix of ages and experience. I watched Tess watching them. We noticed how the microphone cord was wound round the stand thus keeping the singers on a short leash. I suggested unwinding it before she started. Each performer brought a mix of strengths and weaknesses to the stage, none of which required commentary; they were evident. Beth signaled Tess when it was her turn. As she trudged up the steps, I regretted not having helped her find a spot to warm up. Her karaoke track began on the very first note of the song. Unless she guessed right, she would be playing catch up the first few seconds in addition to having to lock in on the key as soon as she could hear it. Tess grabbed the mic, unwound it and then nodded at the sound guy. Sure enough, the music started before her and she was slightly off key. My apprehension mounted slightly as I recorded her. I just wanted her to be okay up there. And then about 20 seconds in, she locked in. From then on she was fine; she was poised; she even smiled a little. She sang. She sang and we all could hear her every word. Even Colm said she was awesome. It was funny and poignant hearing some of the lyrics issue forth from her as she stood straight and unaffected. Brushing her hair back, squinting in the fierce summer sun. Her eyes closing occasionally as she sang to herself, the same way she does late at night in her bed.

Later, after hearing her own recorded voice, she would say, "I sound like a hamster."
"A smart little hamster," I thought. "And a brave little hamster." I was enormously proud of her and relieved that all had gone well. I had no thought at all about the competition or the prizes.
I had to take Colm to his soccer game before seeing the end of the talent show. It was an eventful game. The head coach was admitted to the hospital after going into labor. I took over after a fashion, mainly just pretending to be her. Colm scored the goal that proved to be winning margin of victory. Half way through the game, Tess appeared at my side all smiles. I tousled her hair and smiled down at her.
"I got second."
"What!"
"Fifty bucks."
All I could do was shake my head...somewhere in the recesses of my being was the thought, "It won't always be like this." but that thought was for another day, not this one, because sometimes it is like this, exactly like this.

2 Comments:

Blogger jessp said...

Tess, you are.amazing! We listened to your song over and over. Dean can't wait to jam with you, and Sofie keeps saying "Tess! Song! again!"

8:41 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Way to go, Tess! Love your bravery getting up on stage and, Sister, you nailed it! So proud of you!!! ♥ Erin

4:31 PM  

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