An 8th grade singer and a ukulele. That’s all it takes to moisten this music teacher’s eyes. Today one of my students stayed after class to try out one of our jazz tunes and three measures into it, my heart was already stirred. We’d been banging out the melody on xylophones all class and it was fine— we will move from banging to coaxing beautiful tones from wood and metal— but when all is said and done, there simply is nothing more powerful than the human voice to pluck all the strings of emotion. I’ve been to concerts with complex synthesizers and looping machines and special effects and it all comes from the impulse to express what mere words cannot. But Jean Ritchie singing an old family song acapella always strikes deeper and truer.
Of course, it needn’t be either/or, but in this world of fascination with machines, it’s good to remember the timeless power of the human voice.
And the ukulele.