Vocal Warmups

I used to do a lot of singing and a little bit of acting. I once played Court Royal, a black postal worker in the south, in a play called “The Great Goodness of Life”. Two days before our high school’s One Act Play Night debut, the graduate student assisting the drama teacher thought maybe it wasn’t such a great idea for a bunch of white high school students to be trying to relay a story about racial injustice, intolerance, and oppression in the southern States in the 60’s to their white parents by playing black men and having a cast member throw “n****r” at them ever other word. I can’t say he was wrong about that. I’m still a little shocked at how cavalier we were about it while rehearsing.  Rather than scrap the play entirely, however, the graduate student simply had us change every use of “n****r” to “bastard”. I still claim to have once played a black man, although after that edit there was actually no other clue in the dialogue that the character was black, or that his tormentor was a white racist. It turned out weird. It could have been much, much worse, though. Thank god for graduate students.

Despite being cast to play a black protagonist in a one-act play about racism, I wasn’t a very good actor. I always wondered if I got the gig because I was the only one who auditioned. My only other “lead” role was as Achilles in a stage production of “Crab Cannon” from Hofstadter’s “Godel, Escher, Bach”. That was fun. One of my friends played The Tortoise, and another played the interrupting Crab. I was also a the messenger in Woody Allen’s “My Apology”, about Socrates’ last moments in prison in Athens. That was also fun. I ran out, had one line, and got a standing ovation because I wore paper wings on my running shoes. That was about the right amount of applause-to-effort ratio for me.

Most of my stage time was spent singing. I was in the barbershop quartet in “The Music Man”, and I was the knife grinder in “Oliver”. I learned classic songs from WWI and WWII for our Remembrance Day production, singing a duet of “Dear Old Pal of Mine” as a WWI soldier. I was also in every possible choir.

What sticks with me the most from all of those nights, all of those rehearsals, all of those songs, all of those lines of dialogue, is the vocal warmup routine we would do. The highlight of this routine was always a song set to the William Tell overture. Are you ready? Here, have an earworm.

“I’ve got a head like a ping pong ball,

I’ve got a head like a ping pong ball.

I’ve got a head like a ping pong ball,

Ping! Pong ping pong ball.

Ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ball.

Ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ball.

Ping. Pong ping. Pong ping pong ping pong ping. Pong!

I’ve got a head like a pong ping ball,

I’ve got a head like a pong ping ball.

I’ve got a head like a pong ping ball,

Pong! Ping pong ping ball.

Pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping ball.

Pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping pong ping ball.

Pong. Ping pong. Ping pong ping pong ping pong. Ping!”

 

It still runs through my head, more often than I’d like to admit.

14 thoughts on “Vocal Warmups”

  1. "Qui cantat, bis orat." – attributed to Augustine (He who sings, prays twice.)

    1. No, it's not equivalent. I think that was the point, for him. Like I said,

      it ended up pretty weird to perform, and probably to view as well, but he

      saved us from a huge mistake.

  2. I sang the ping pong ball song to my kids…i'll probably be very sorry in a few days. I've had Barry Manilow songs in my head all week…probably because I managed to tick off the entire fan club last week. Want to see/read nuts? When you have a few min, visit my blog:)

      1. In my defense, I even know there WAS such a thing until they took me apart…i consider myself lucky to be alive.

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