Naked shepherds and Pepto Bismol | Overstuffed Overstuffed

Monday, December 10, 2007

Naked shepherds and Pepto Bismol

My vocal students are having a recital tomorrow night, so for the last couple weeks we've been polishing their music and talking about performance etiquette. One of the things I have tried and tried to drive home to them is that when they forget the words, or sing the wrong words, they need to just pretend that that is exactly how the music was written and nothing out of the ordinary happened. Because, let's face it: unless someone in the audience has either performed the song before or happens to listen to it every night before he goes to bed, people are just not going to notice that a mistake occured.

Needless to say, most of them aren't very good at it. I know it's hard, especially since text memorization is nearly impossible for me. I have certainly had my share of lyric gaffes in my life as a performer, and I didn't always know how to graciously pretend that I totally meant to say the absurd thing you just heard.

Of course, this is slightly easier when singing in a foreign language. At my senior recital I sang a German lied that was like, two hours long. At least it sure seemed that way. It had five very long verses, all sung to the same melody with a slight variation on the final verse. I got hopelessly and completely lost during the performance and made up German like crazy. I'm sure nobody noticed. I also got a bit confused with the lyrics on one of my English songs. I ended up singing the same text twice in a row and caught myself from going to the bridge too early just in the nick of time. Yes, I am the unarguable queen of lyric mishaps.

I remember being in studio class one night in college. As is the procedure, one of the class members was singing for the rest of the students, in order to be critiqued later by the professor. The selection she was performing was "Amarilli, mia Bella," an Italian aria that every vocal major will learn at some point in his or her college career, if they didn't already learn it while in high school. This meant that at least half of us were very familiar with the music and lyrics she was singing.

She got to the part where the lyrics say, "E vedrai scrito in core" and forgot the words. She kept the straightest of faces and instead said, "Pe-eh-pto bi-ih-ismol." I couldn't stop laughing. Neither could several of my classmates. There were, however, a good portion of students who either weren't familiar with the piece (yet), or simply weren't paying attention to her performance. They couldn't figure out why the rest of the class (professor included) was giggling uncontrollably.

I was so impressed with her ability to maintain a poker face and keep right on going, even when the audience was snickering, that I vowed right then and there to never let on when I sang the wrong lyrics, or messed up in any other way. I've done pretty well, too. Case in point: the other night while singing my solo in the choir concert I sang these words:

"Shepherds naked, cold and bare."

I just kept singing, and not one person in the audience that I could see even so much as cracked a smile. Nor did a single fellow choir member mention the mistake. I'm guessing that my huge alteration of the nativity scene didn't register on anyone's radar because they were so mesmerized by the beauty of my voice. I mean, that's the only explanation.

Because it couldn't possibly be that most people don't even pay attention to the lyrics.


  1. they were all wondering how bare those naked shepherds were, and if they were hot. :)

  2. Wow! Cold, naked shepherds! That gives a whole new twist to the traditional nativity!

  3. You are definitely your mother's daughter!!! One benefit concert I did, I forgot the whole second verse and made up typical la-la's among various other words. It was unnoticed, go figure!!

  4. Ha ha!!! Thanks for the chuckle!

    Amy @

  5. That is too funny--cold and bare?

    My husband can't remember lyrics to save his life and he tends to make them up. He was singing some French Christmas Carol tonight after dinner with the only French phrases he could remember, "Aujourd hui . . . tait-toi fermez la bouche voulez vous"

    He didn't even know what he was singing. Cracked me up.

  6. Thanks, Lara, for a great laugh. Literally, tears coming out of the corners of my eyes...

    Have a great day!

    Mary (Meyers) Marble

  7. That is too funny! I guess unless you really know the songs word for word, you really wouldn't give it a second thought!

  8. hahahaha, this was such a good laugh!!!

  9. Hilarious! It's true, no one usually catches the glitches, but I'm wondering if you were actually thinking about Dr. Derek Shepherd (greys anatomy) naked? I do.

  10. You really do have a beautiful voice, so I'm sure they were all taken by you! I remember the one sacrament meeting at the BYU ward... Joel was conducting and you had a solo for the Christmas production... Most BEAUTIFUL and memorable sacrament meeting to this day, for me!!! You are so talented and I really miss hearing your voice! What a talent you are!

  11. Oh my gosh! I love your blog. It always makes me laugh.