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April 7, 2013

A Short Exercise in Black Humor

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The Ballard Writer’s Collective took over Egan’s Jam House last Tuesday night to showcase the considerable literary talent that lurks in unassuming little Ballard. (For those of you unfamiliar with the Puget Sound area, Ballard began life as a Norwegian fishing village but was subsequently swallowed by Seattle. It lives on as a distinctive neighborhood and as home to a disproportionate number of writers.) Those of us participating were given an assignment: a three-minute piece, approximately 450 words, that took the form of a voice mail, email, tweet, or some kind of electronic emission.  What follows was my contribution, a tale told by an exasperated choir director.  It characterizes something that actually happened with *almost* no elaboration on my part:

Thursday, July 8,

To: The OK Chorale

Regarding the eruption last night during the rehearsal, I want to reiterate that “The Titanic” is a camp song and it is part of a set we are doing of camp songs. It was suggested by Bill (bass) who actually learned the song at camp when he was a child.  It’s in the same category as “Glory, glory hallelujah, teacher hit me with a ruler.”  I encourage you to keep that perspective.

Thursday, July 15

To: The OK Chorale

To those of you who are still objecting to the singing of “The Titanic:” Please e-mail me your comments so I can try to understand your viewpoints without using anymore rehearsal time as we have 9 other songs to learn.

Friday, July 16

To: Eleanor (soprano)

I really don’t see that the song is making fun of children.  The line in question is “Husbands and wives, little children lost their lives.” That’s a statement of fact.  I realize we are singing it in a carefree way but no one disputes the next line: “It was sad when that great ship went down.”

Thursday, July 22

To: The OK Chorale

To follow up on last night’s attempted mutiny: we are performers.  Performers entertain audiences who have a wide range of sensibilities.  For example, I was raised by alcoholic parents and there’s nothing about drunkenness that amuses me.  But every winter quarter I pull out the Irish drinking songs, and the pub songs.  I know that many people like them and I see how they can be funny even though I don’t find them funny. Some people will not like the black humor in “The Titanic” but some will.

Friday, July 23

To: Harriet (alto)

Harriet, I understand you to say that your grandparents lived in Germany during the Hitler regime. I do agree that was a tragic time. I wish to point out that you didn’t live in Germany during the Hitler regime, no one is forcing you to watch Hogan’s Heroes, and I don’t quite see why any of this means the Chorale shouldn’t sing “The Titanic.”

Sunday, July 25

To: Richard (tenor)

Yes, I know that before her maiden voyage people said, “Not even God could sink ‘The Titanic,’” and while it may add some historical and, as you say, moral perspective, telling the audience that “God is not mocked” is outside the parameters of the OK Chorale’s mission.

Sunday, Aug 1

To: The OK Chorale

When we sing, “The Titanic,” this week Eleanor (soprano) and Harriet (alto) will move to the back of the group and sit.  Roberta (alto) will wear a black arm band and close her mouth for all the lines she finds too flippant.  In exchange for Richard not bellowing this out during the performance, I have agreed to tell you here that God is not mocked.

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Postscript: we sang “The Titanic” on a Puget Sound ferry boat and got a write-up in the Seattle Times.








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