My family was, and is, full of singers. And the singing was not "run of the mill", but beautiful. My natural dad and his older sister sang, and it seems almost everyone in my mother's family sang. My brother sings. My sister has a beautiful voice. I guess I sing (I call myself the runt in this regard).
Singing was a natural part of life when I was young. My mother took singing lessons and sang solos in the church choir. She gave a recital. Mother usually sang the contralto solos from The Messiah at Christmas or Easter. She played piano, and almost every day she would take time to play and sing for her own enjoyment. Sometimes she entertained my sister and me, often with songs from the Raggedy Ann Songbook. She particularly enjoyed spirituals and was a fan of Marian Anderson. She really liked the song My Lord, What a Morning ; I can still hear her singing that one!
My sister and I imitated her voice, a deep, rich mezzo soprano, and called it the "big lady voice". It was great fun to imitate when playing dolls. I still recall her warming up for choir on Sunday mornings and before lessons.
My dad sang bass in the church choir. He was very musical and could play piano by ear. He enjoyed popular music, especially jazz, and enjoyed singing in small men's groups. I think he would just love the group Straight, No Chaser if he was still alive! My mother told stories about how my dad ingratiated himself to a fraternity he wanted to join at IU with his piano skills.
My dad's older sister had a beautiful soprano voice, but she could also sing in what I call her "everyday" voice. She used this while teaching music to handicapped children. I heard it whenever my aunts drove us to their lake cottage....she taught us rounds on the way. It was lots of fun.
I could go on and on about other extended family, including great aunts. Music was just a part of life and we enjoyed it.
My mother was a fan of the Leonard Bernstein children's programs which were televised when I was young. I enjoyed them. In conjunction with these my mother taught me all the instruments of an orchestra.
My sister and I were exposed to all kinds of music. The radio was usually playing in the morning. I remember some of the early rock and roll songs of the 1950s. Mother would often play 45 records of the Four Freshmen, a favorite group of my dad. The one that was usually played had the words Standing on the corner, watching all the girls, watching all the girls go by. We listened to musicals such as My Fair Lady, South Pacific and Kismet. We watched them on TV (like Peter Pan). We listened to records of Disney music, Tubby the Tuba, Peter and the Wolf, the Nutcracker Suite, and Bozo on the Farm. We heard Mantovani strings (lots of this!) and Barbra Streisand (she loved Barbra!).
We heard opera. She took us to see La Traviata when I was a teen..... a magical experience because she prepared us well.
There was lots of classical music at home. I remember Richard Strauss' Til Eulenspiegel (scary), The Grand Canyon Suite (one of her favorites), the major Beethoven piano sonatas, Bach preludes and fugues, Tchaikovsky symphonies 5 and 6, Beethoven symphonies, Stravinsky's Firebird Suite (we had fun dancing around the house to this when my parents were gone) )and collections of short classical pieces such as March of the Three Oranges by Prokofiev.
My mother tried to teach me how to play the piano at about age 6 and changed me to other teachers, but the piano and I did not get along. I've never been much of a singer, either. Fortunately I fell in love with the violin and viola and they became my voices, thanks to a mother who recognized my talents and gave me opportunities to use them. I have much to be grateful for!
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