Lockdown in Paris: Day 35

After the storm. ©Lisa Anselmo

It’s Music Monday! A little story; a little song.

A storm moved in Saturday from out of a flawless sky. Clouds rolled up and let loose their chaos for half an hour then rolled out again, leaving the air clean and crisp, and perfumed with jasmine.

I’m sure I don’t need to draw the obvious parallel here. It inspired today’s song—one very close to my heart—about a better place where there are no troubles, and you can have all the good you can dream up.

The invitation to my first classical recital at the Singer’s Forum. Photo by Greg Miller.

This song has deep and magical implications in my life. First, it was the official song of the voice school where I studied for years, a place that saved my life, Singer’s Forum. This school, founded by my uncle Andy Anselmo, was a place for anyone who wanted to sing. Andy even created a class called Singing for Those Who Think They Can’t, which was very popular.

Don’t believe everyone can learn to sing? There was one student who used to have his private coaching every Thursday in a studio adjacent to the theater space where I took my opera scene workshop. When he started, he had two notes, both bad. Two years later, we was crooning like Sinatra, and two years after that, he was able to quit his job and support his family with his tours, selling out 2000-seat theaters. That philosophy of fulfilling people’s dreams is why today’s song is so apropos of the Singer’s Forum.

This song came around again in my life, when I was at a crisis point. I had started studying with Neil Semer in an effort to step up my game. The majority of Neil’s students are professional opera and musical theater performers—major players. Here I was in the big leagues and I felt the pressure. Imposter Syndrome they call it. A few weeks into our lessons, when I opened my mouth to sing an aria, nothing came out. My voice was fine, but I was paralyzed by fear. Years of study, failed auditions, a ticking clock, squeezed the joy out of singing.

Neil could see this, and held up his hand to stop my agony. “I want to try something,” he said. He got up from the piano and disappeared into another room, returning with a songbook. “Let’s just see where this takes us.”

He started to play the very same song that was the theme of Singer’s Forum, but Neil didn’t know its significance in my life. My heart soared and so did my voice. Inspired, Neil pulled out a few more classic torch songs. I devoured those, too.

“Can you tell me why you’re not singing this repertoire?” he asked. “Doesn’t it feel like coming home?”

It did. I grew up with this music as a child, been singing it all my life. “But it’s so easy,” I said.

“Easy for you,” Neil replied. “You’re born for this music.” If I was only singing opera because the level of difficulty made it appealing, I was missing the point. And classical singing didn’t come hard to those it was right for, he explained. Cabaret was in my blood, and it felt effortless. Maybe it was time to trust that, to be true to who I was. “Singing should be joyful,” Neil reminded me.

I had been attracted to a faraway, exotic place. I thought I would be happier there, but like Dorothy, I realized that coming home—to my authentic self—was the adventure. Being happy where you are—that’s the dream.

And here is today’s song, in case you hadn’t guessed:

Over the Rainbow. Vocals by Lisa Anselmo.

Get caught up on my diary, here.


On today’s bookshelf

The original. Click book to buy.

Me as Dorothy in Oz. Click book to buy.

18 responses to “Lockdown in Paris: Day 35

  1. Another treat a good story and a great song.
    Thank you I now look forward to mondays.

  2. Your daily posts are a fabulous read and give me such a lift! Your writing along with your many other obvious talents, is inspiring.
    Merci millefois Lisa!

      • Soooo lovely! I am a “singing enthusiast” myself. Since retirement I have been involved in singing classes and groups performing for convalescent homes, etc. Living in LA, many of my fellow students and performers are people who have performed professionally, so I also feel like an “imposter”. Still, I warble on!! “If happy little bluebirds…why, oh, why can’t I”!!! My favorite line of this song.

        My most recent performance, at a meetup called Croon in the Afternoon, was “If I Only Had a Brain”, in jazz style. I heard Tierney Sutton perform it and took on the challenge for myself (my prior inspirations were songs sung by Pink Martini singer China Forbes). It was a hit!

        Sorry to ramble on so long, but it’s early morning, and I am snug in bed, catching up on your posts. I might even re-read your book today! I was dusting off my bookshelves yesterday and there it was, ready to be opened again.
        Take care, lovely Lisa.

  3. Lisa,
    I just loved this! Over the Rainbow, with its forward-looking POV is just about the perfect song for this pandemic. It will be over soon and things will return to normal–or what passes for it–eventually. When happy little bluebirds fly…

    As far as hard cases and singing go, I am, hands-down, the worst singer in the known world. Irredeemably so. Birds have been known to fall out of the sky, I’m such a bad singer. My family won’t let me sing at the beach, out of doors. Legendary!

    But you…wonderful.


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