It was breakfast time on Easter Monday, and Tanya had organized a group of 11 of us to come out to a hotel restaurant armed with vouchers to eat a buffet breakfast. It looked like we had all eaten our fill of eggs, bacon, fruits, cereals, yoghurts, and whatever other breakfast foods lined the tables of Copthorne Hotel’s “one80” restaurant. Somehow, talk had moved to movies and Frozen, and I took the opportunity to tell stories of how I’d sing lines from that movie in work situations.
When someone at work would come up to me to ask me something, either out of politeness or habit, they’d first ask whether I was busy. Instead of answering their question, I’d reply with a singing question of my own:
♪ Do you want to build a snowman? ♫
Compared to the few musician friends I have, I don’t really think of myself as a hugely musical person. I’ve got some music in me - I’ll sing along on road trips, I can play piano (very basically) and guitar (a bit more than basically), and I really enjoy musicals - but only ever enough to keep it firmly planted in hobby territory. Every now and then though, a little bit of that hobby will seep through the walls that divide reality and my mind, and I’d find myself humming along to a tune, or mouthing the words to a song in my head or playing through my headphones as I walk to/from work or in any other public situation.
Those actions I described are really just residual effects borne out of the frustration that what I really wish would happen is for people to break out in song and dance on random occasions.
I know, I know, it’s probably just me that wishes that. I’ve been too caught up with Disney movies and musical theatre and the occasional episode of Glee over the years that it’s kind of skewed my expectations of how much music is actually inside each and every one of us. Not every person wants the world to know how they feel through verse and chorus, and not everybody wants to express themselves through song and dance.
It’s a little sad though, isn’t it? Music is such an emotionally-charged thing, and if people have no music in them, then does that mean they’re also lacking the emotion to go with it, or are holding on to those emotions maybe a bit too tightly?
That’s one of the lines of thought that crosses my mind whenever I catch myself humming-along to a tune only I can hear as I walk down a busy city street at any of the busier times of day. Especially in little old New Zealand where people can be so damn reserved with their feelings that it’s become a bit of a joke whenever they’re brought up.
For example, I met with a local writing group recently, and one of the people there wrote poetry. When asked to describe the kind of poetry she wrote, she hesitated to say that she wrote about her feelings. Upon hearing that last word, some of the others laughed, and another lady said, in a joking manner, “Feelings? In New Zealand? No we can’t have that!”
Have you ever seen those images floating around on Facebook or Tumblr, the inspirational quote ones, particularly the one that goes something like, “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about” ? My corollary to that, is to wonder what struggles are inside us that are keeping these emotions in check, and what it would take to make breaking out in song and dance the norm.
For some, it doesn’t take a lot. A few glasses of alcohol seems to do the trick for most people, which is a sad reflection of our culture that intoxication is a prerequisite to openness. For others though, all it takes is the right kind of company (eg: friends or people with whom you wouldn’t be embarrassed to sing in front of).
I’m usually pretty happy when either of those situations arise and the chance to sing presents itself. Just the other week I was at a birthday party when a group of us, sitting around a table, somehow got to associating someone else with being a mermaid. I joked that they wanted to be ‘Part of that world’ (The Little Mermaid reference), and started singing the first few lines from that song:
♪ Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?
Wouldn’t you say my collection’s complete? ♫
I stopped, wondering if my reference and song would go over the heads of everybody at the table, but then the 2 girls sitting to my left took it upon themselves to continue:
♪ Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl
The girl who has everything? ♫
The 3 of us looked at each other, smiling so hard, and, without skipping a beat, we continued to sing the rest of the song together, all the way through the first chorus.
What planets aligned or what old-world gods conspired to have us 3 meet at this time and place to sing the words to a song that was either from before we were born or before the time we were capable of creating memories…
It was magical, and it’s that kind of magic that I wish was a lot more commonplace than it is now.
Back at that breakfast table on that Easter Monday morning, I thought to see what would happen if, on the subject of Frozen, I started singing “Do you want to build a snowman?” from the movie:
♪ Do you want to build a snowman?
Come on let’s go and play
I never see you any more
Come out the door
It’s like you’ve gone away- ♫
Unfortunately for me, lightning doesn’t strike twice.
“Alright,” said Tanya, standing-up from her chair, “Em’s started singing; time for us to go.”
And with that, everyone else got out of their seats and headed towards the exit. I, however, stayed where I was, singing the next line by myself as I watched my friends retreat from me.
♪ We used to be best buddies, and now we’re not
I wish you would tell me why- ♫
A little bit of melancholy crept-in to me then as I stood from my seat to join the others, the echo of those last lyrics still ringing in my ears.
I was going to end this tale on that sombre note, but just the other day one of my workmates was walking passed my desk when I heard him singing a couple of lines from another song in Frozen. I turned to see who it was as they walked away, and I thought, Maybe there’s hope for this country after all…