There's a relatively new association in the Twin Cities called The Traditional Singers Club that promotes the unaccompanied singing of mostly Irish music. I haven't had too much involvement with them, but on Sunday my friend Sherry Minnick, with whom I sing shapenote, gave a concert. Just as at a folk club in England (or Bob Walser's basement), people get up from the audience to sing to open up each half of the concert. During the first half the MC, who usually calls out people himself, noted that there were a lot of unfamiliar faces in attendance and if anybody was interested in singing a song in the second half of the concert to let him know. So I did.
This is the sort of thing I do, though: Lead chorus songs. I do this in Morris settings, I do this at parties, it is absolutely in my comfort zone and experience. I have a voice that is not to everyone's liking (to put it mildly, and people have mocked my voice with its buzzsaw vibrato my whole life) but it's clear and strong and has plenty of resonance and I sing like a percussionist (which is to say, steady on). My energy compensates for my occasional falterings in intonation. That's as clear-headed of a self-assessment as I can provide. It's not bel canto, but I know what I have and I have experience using it.
I sang a cleaned up version of a traditional British song sometimes called "The Soldier and the Sailor", one I learned from a friend in England and which usually goes over well because people enjoy singing the final chorus of a thrice-repeated chord-wallowing "May there never be another war". The folks there enjoyed it, it seems, to the point that the person who sang after me introduced his song by saying "I don't know how I can follow that!" which is a good sign and after the concert lots of people wanted to know my name.
It's just a single song as part of a much larger evening that was absolutely Sherry's night, but it left me with a nice happy buzz.
On Friday the singing was very different, as I was part of a gospel quartet at a church music concert. The concert producer, the music director of the church, has in mind a sort of Grand Ole Opry of local gospel music, so The New Gloryland Quartet fit right into his conception. During our sound check (it takes some getting used to, singing with a microphone in a big huge sound-devouring space) it was clear that a few of the folks there did not like my singing at all, in particular that it reflected our quartet's goal and style which is not that smooth perfect choral blend that people expect (and which I find so incredibly boring that I literally can't stand anything the King's Singers do for more than about 60 seconds and they are the best in the world). On the other hand, there were people there during the sound check who heard our very first measure and perked right up in fascination and pleasure.
Our first two songs, in the first half of the concert, went over well enough. For our second two songs in the second half we'd gotten more used to the setting and from my point of view we just had a blast. This was definitely noticed and appreciated. Jim, Denise, and Cathy don't know this, but part of what I had in my head as a model of what I wanted to convey was the Kingston Trio. Yes, the Kingston Trio. Think of old videos of their performances -- they have a whole schtick of enjoying themselves and interacting with each other and practically dancing. Again, it's not choral.
I'm certain we'll perform again. It felt good afterwards, and we went out to a nice restaurant to wind down. It was lovely.