Posts Tagged ‘Swingle Singers’

Saturday Single No. 462

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

When I was in elementary school during the last years of the 1950s and the first years of the 1960s, we celebrated birthdays in school. The birthday kid got to bring treats for the class, and the class would sing “Happy Birthday” to him or her. It wasn’t a huge celebration, but it was a nice acknowledgement of the occasion.

(The treats were almost always homemade, cookies or cupcakes crafted by the birthday kid’s mom. There weren’t nearly as many regulations back then, and no one worried about kids being allergic to peanuts, eggs or whatever. In some ways, it was a better time. In many ways, of course, it wasn’t.)

Kids whose birthdays fell into the three or so months of summer vacation didn’t get to celebrate, of course. The thought comes to me today that perhaps the teachers, during the last days of school in spring, should have organized a birthday celebration for those kids who’d mark their birthdays during summer vacation. I’m not sure why that didn’t happen.

There were some kids whose birthdays were, as one might say, on what we’ll call the vernal cusp: kids whose birthdays fell in late May and might or might not fall during the school year. Some years they got to celebrate in school, some years they didn’t. And then there were some kids whose birthdays were on the autumnal cusp: kids whose birthdays were in early September, sometimes falling after Labor Day, when school began, and sometimes falling before – or on – Labor Day.

The thing about kids with birthdays on the autumnal cusp is that it seems as if it took a week or so for the teachers and the moms to get everything organized, so kids whose birthdays fell in early September, as far as I can remember, never got to celebrate with their classmates. I was one of those kids, with a birthday falling on September 5.

Yep, today is my birthday, and that’s something I don’t recall sharing at school during those six years of elementary school. A quick check of a calendar site tells me that my birthday fell after Labor Day and on a weekday – and thus on a school day – in 1961, 1962 and 1963, during my first weeks in third, fourth and fifth grades. (The other three years of elementary school my birthday either fell before Labor Day or on a Saturday.) I remember a lot of things from those three years, but I don’t recall bringing treats for my birthday.

I know what treats I would have brought to school: My mom used to make some bars – among the ingredients, I think, were peanut butter and brown sugar – that were then topped with chocolate and chopped walnuts. I can see them in our metal pan with the sliding lid as I write, and I remember that when she made them, they didn’t last long. And it would have been nice to be able to share them with my classmates.

I think the pan with the sliding lid is on a shelf in the fruit cellar here, but of course, it’s been years since it had bars in it. Maybe it’s time to change that. Maybe Mom and I should go through her cookbooks – she still has several of them at her assisted living center even though she doesn’t really cook anymore – and see if we can find the recipe for those bars. They’re easy enough to make, I think.

Well, if that happens, it won’t be today. And there are no classmates to share the bars with anyway, only the Texas Gal and the four cats. It’s maybe just as well. The chocolate wouldn’t be good for the catboys, and the Texas Gal and I sure don’t need to down a pan of bars on our own.

So there will be no bars to share. There might be cake later on; I do not know what the Texas Gal has planned for the day, but I am certain it will be at least as good as having twenty-five third-graders serenade me with “Happy Birthday.”

And we’ll close this with an appropriate tune: Here’s the Swingle Singers’ take on the Beatles’ “Birthday.” It’s from the 2002 album Ticket To Ride: A Beatles Tribute, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘You Say It’s Your Birthday . . .’

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Well, in direct contradiction to the headline on this post, my long-time friend Rick did not tell me that today is his birthday. He didn’t need to. For most of the past fifty-six-plus years, I’ve known that February 6 is his birthday. He turns sixty today. (And Babe Ruth would have been 119; during our younger years, Rick made sure we all knew that he shared a birthday with the Greatest Of All Time, and Babe Ruth was certainly that.)

I sent an email off a few moments ago, wishing the Kiddie Corner Kid – as he’s styled himself when he comments here – a happy birthday, and I gave him a brief preview of what it’s like to be sixty: “Strained right elbow and wrist ligaments and a touchy right hamstring and quad. Of course, your mileage may vary. But it’s not all bad: You’ll qualify for more senior discounts.”

He, of course, is left-handed, so if there are complaints from any of his ligaments and muscles as they enter their seventh decade of use, those complaints are likely to come from the left. (There’s a political joke hanging there, just as there is an open spot for a reference to “sinister” as the Latin word for “left,” but we’ll leave both of those alone this morning.) One of my enduring memories from childhood comes from those times when Rick would be at our house for a meal; I would have to change from my regular spot at the kitchen table, shifting one spot to the right with Rick on my left so we would not bang elbows as we ate.

We were once nearly a daily presence in each other’s lives. These days, we see each other two or three times a year, but those two or three occasions are built on the foundation of nearly sixty years of friendship. As I told Rick in my email: “I’ve known you longer than anyone other than my family. (As least I think so; I’m not entirely sure if it was you or Rob in the lead coming across Kilian Boulevard on your tricycles on that spring day in 1957. If you were in the lead, and I think you were, then you have a two-second edge on him.) And our friendship is one of the cherished portions of my life.”

So for the Kiddie Corner Kid (and for the Babe as well), here’s “Birthday” by the Swingle Singers from their 2002 album, Ticket To Ride: A Beatles Tribute.

From Bippity Bach To Beatles

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Somehow, despite writing on occasion over the last five-plus years about my sister’s record collection in the 1960s and early 1970s, I have never mentioned the Swingle Singers.

The group, formed in Paris in 1962 by a singer named Ward Swingle, performed “Classical and Baroque works with a jazz rhythm section, employing a distinctive scat style in the vocal parts,” according to All Music Guide. If that’s a hard concept to wrap one’s mind around on a Tuesday, here’s an example of what that sounded like, with the group taking on Bach’s Prelude & Fugue No. 1 in C Major from (I think) the group’s first album, Jazz Sebastian Bach, released in 1963:

I guess that sometime in the mid-1960s, my sister heard the group somewhere – school, a friend’s house – and selected as one of her regular choices from our record club the group’s 1964 album The Swingle Singers Go Baroque. I have no idea how often she listened to it, but I know I rarely dropped the album on the stereo. The music seemed, well, too bippity for my tastes, for lack of a real and better word. Perhaps the best measure of how little I cared for the record is that, of all the records that my sister took with her when she left St. Cloud in 1972, The Swingle Singers Go Baroque is one I’ve never tried to find. I don’t know if I’ve ever run across it, but if I have, I’ve left it in the bin.

Come the 1970s, the tale gets a bit tangled, with Ward Swingle moving to England and forming a second group, Swingle II, designed, AMG says, “to perform a broader base of repertory.” That second group eventually took on the original name (if I am reading things correctly) and has continued to record, broadening its repertoire to include popular music and incorporating words into its performances along with the scat-style vocals.

And that’s where I caught up with the current version of the Swingle Singers. Somewhere out in the wilds, I stumbled upon Ticket To Ride: A Beatles Tribute. That 2002 collection of rather inventive covers of sixteen Lennon-McCartney songs has piqued my interest, and I will likely dig deeper into the group’s catalog. Here’s the Swingle Singers’ take on “Revolution.” (The visuals provide more background into the group’s history.)