We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring another stirring edition of Facepalm Friday. Today’s injection of facepalm will be relatively short and sweet.
Several years ago in school, I took a choral arranging class. Maybe one of the best classes EVER. It gave music majors the chance to practice applying all those silly music rules we learn, like in voice leading and such. Parallel fifths? It’s WHATEVS. This class soothed my soul. There were about ten of us in the course, and for the final, we all had to arrange a piece of our choosing and actually rehearse it with a considerable collection of choristers, including those of the “elite” top university ensemble. The final run-throughs were recorded (in all their interesting glory) and given to us to use in our individual composition and teaching portfolios.
So the twist was this: we didn’t actually direct or rehearse our arrangements, which I found fabulous, as that freed us up to observe the process, not stress over poor voice leading, and genuinely listen. The course instructor ended up waving his hands around. He’s incredibly experienced in directing, performing, etcetc. We knew our compositions would be in good hands, so to speak. When our piece wasn’t being performed, us classmates could choose to either sing with the lab vocalists or just watch. Since I’m into self-punishment, I chose the former.
Some really terrific pieces came out of that class, folks. Mine wasn’t necessarily one of them, but I just remember being blown away by other people’s publish-worthy creative output. One such piece was an arrangement of “Ding Dong, Merrily on High” which one of my friends had so eloquently transcribed. It was nicely upbeat and generally frolick-y. Of course, as is customary with any text involving the “ng” syllable, there were a lot of places where the arranger had indicated that the choir close to the “nnnnnnnnn” rather than stay open on the vowel. Reminiscent of actual bells, no? My choir peeps are nodding their heads right now going “of course, yes textpainting mmhhhmm.”
So we’re rehearsing Ding, Dong, Merrily on High. The conductor of the top choir, all the graduate TAs, and the topdog orchestral director dude are all there. There’s cameras. We’re literal seconds away from hitting “record.” Maestro Arranger, in a last-ditch effort to fix some note issues, calls our attention to a specific part in the music. How does he do it?
“Basses, if you could just hold your big, long ‘dong,’ a little longer, that’d be great.” *
Have you ever seen 60 people lose their shit at the same time? I have. It became immediately apparent that the poor fool was trying really hard not to acknowledge that he had just referenced the genitalia ** of every male in the room. I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my face, and then had to get it together and try not to think of guy junk every time we sang the word “dong.” Do you know how hard that is when you’re singing Ding Dong, Merrily on High? I got a good ab workout that day.
* I did not make this up. These were the actual words he used.
** I had to look up how to spell genitalia.