My friend and comedian Will Franken has taken up singing. Until he joined a church choir in San Francisco last week, he’d pretty much decided he couldn’t hold a tune. In fact, when he was at high school he made fun of people who sang. To his surprise, Will found himself taking to the choir quite naturally. I asked him to share some thoughts about his debut:
I joined the choir last week at a church up in Bernal Heights. There’s only like five or six of us–only two males, excluding the choir director.
I’ve been going here since September and spent the first two months bitching about how nobody was playing the organ. (The choir director uses a guitar–very unorthodox for a Catholic Church; even though there’s a swanky pipe organ readily available and supposedly he knows how to play it, but just prefers guitar.)
Anyway, I suppose I decided to make lemons out of lemonade. Most of the congregation doesn’t sing along with the hymns, so I started experimenting to see if I could match the notes he was singing. Later I heard from my godmother that the director was asking about me and whether or not I would be interested in joining the choir. My artistic ego thus stroked, I reconciled myself with the guitar.
My first rehearsal was so wild. I was really nervous, almost like I was getting ready to do one of my comedy shows. He sat me right up in the front and positioned a mike directly in front of me. As we were rehearsing, the church filled up for the 10 a.m. Mass. He reminded us that we weren’t here to do a show, but to do a job; i.e., to take part in the liturgy. I followed the notes with my finger and watched for the chord changes and was amazed at the vibrato that was naturally coming out of my mouth. When the notes went low, I brought my head down and when the notes went high, I raised my head up. It was like the notes were dictating my physical movement. It was, for lack of a better term, really fucking fun. I don’t know how else to describe it. I think now a lot of being able to sing has to do with confidence — like so many other things in life, I suppose. Just jumping in without a net. We even did some a cappella stuff. . .what a rush! Thursday we’re going to rehearse for the upcoming caroling at the midnight Christmas Mass. I can’t wait. And maybe if I get in good with this guy, I can sweet-talk him into playing the organ again.”
Will is performing at The Herbst Theatre on New Year’s Eve. I don’t know if he’ll be treating audiences to his new-found vibrato that night, but if you’re in the Bay Area on December 31, you should definitely check out his virile strain of absurdist comedy.