The Music Man

This Christmas, our choir sang Hodie Christus Natus Est. It’s a fun piece, and Kelly and I would sing bits of it on the way home from rehearsal, or throughout the week.

The tenors and basses open the piece with a joyous ‘Hodie! Hodie!’ (ho-dee-ay), and we sang this most often. We soon noticed that Ian was doing his best to sing along, using the only words he could find that best fit what we were singing: ‘Hi, Ian! Hi, Ian!’ The words may have been off, but his pitch was on.

Ian’s singing is nothing new. We’ve been singing to Ian since he was born, especially Kelly and her mother, and it wasn’t long before he tried to join in. The first song I can remember him singing is In the Car, a song Kelly’s mom started while he was being fussy in the car:

In the car, we go bye-bye,
In the car, we go bye.
In the car, we go bye-bye,
In the car, we go bye.
In the car [in the car], we go bye [we go bye],
In the car [in the car], we go bye, bye, bye!
In the car [in the car], we go bye [we go bye],
In the car, we go bye!

Eventually we’d pause to let Ian sing, which he did, because why else would everyone be staring at him, expectantly? Even grandpa, who really should be watching the road. So, Ian started singing ‘car’ and ‘bye-bye’ on cue, and several head-on collisions were avoided.

We did this with several other songs, and it always took quite a bit of repetition before Ian could remember the lyrics. Now the learning curve is considerably shorter, and it’s starting to freak me out. Just a bit.

Last week, Ian and I were running errands and rocking to Time Life Music’s Classic Jazz Christmas. No sonner had John Pizzarelli finished his rendition than Ian started singing, ‘Let it snow! Let it snow!’ In the correct rhythm. With the correct pitch.

Kelly picked me up from work, and on the way home Ian sang Old MacDonald Had a Farm. My jaw dropped; I’d never heard him sing this song before, let alone the whole thing. This past weekend I saw it as my fatherly duty to teach him that, in addition to a duck and a cow, Old MacDonald also had a camel. Because camels spit. And that’s just fun.

I thought kids were supposed to improvise their own songs. I always pictured Ian, at this age, singing nonsense words and tunes that went nowhere, ending only when he was bored. I never thought he’d be singing Rutter and Sweelinck.

Ian’s been learning Away in a Manger, but he’s also started pretending to be a cat. Last night he started to sing the song, but with updated lyrics:

Meow meow meow meow meow meow
meow meow meow meow meow…

Well, it’s a kind of improvisation.

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