My earliest memories are of singing. Singing in the car, in church, in school, on the way to the trout stream, on the bus after basketball games. It is a rare kid, even today, who doesn't sing.
Something happens to many of us, though, particularly guys. Despite all the money and excitement generated by the music industry, not to mention how easy it is to meet the fairer sex in the church, high school, college or community choir, too many of us listened to that uninformed critic who said, "You can't sing -- just mouth the words" -- and the great fun of glorious song was taken away.
Why do I sing today? It feels good. It is whole-body play that makes the tensions of the day melt away. It's good for your heart and lungs. I was once a long-distance runner, but my cardiovascular exercise is now reduced to the hours I spend singing. My pulse is still low, and my lungs still work.
It is also good for the community. It is tough to be angry with someone who is sharing a song with you. Well, we would argue in the family car as kids about who had to sing "the tune." We all wanted to sing the harmony.
We can sing together. Most of us will never be mistaken for Sinatra, Sting or Springsteen, but we can contribute to a group. In a choir, chorus or small vocal ensemble, we can move people.
Find a church choir, praise band, barbershop or community chorus and give it a few nights of experimentation. Don't take yourself out of the singing game because of something that uninformed critic said. You don't need the pipes of a Pavarotti to enjoy the gift of singing. Singing is a gift that the vast majority of us possess.
The University of South Carolina Aiken is offering a continuing-education course, Men Sing '09 -- 50 Songs to Sing Before You Die. Take six Mondays, starting in February, from 6 to 6:45 p.m., and give your voice a workout. Call (803) 335-3149 for information.
No auditions, no sight-reading skills needed, and after singing for 45 minutes a night for six weeks in a large group (of men), if you really can't sing, we'll tell you.
BILL RIEHL SINGS IN THE MASTERWORKS CHORALE IN AIKEN .