Me And Mr. Welk
For nearly fifty years the grinning visage of Lawrence Welk has been haunting my television viewing. North Dakota's most famous celebrity , now departed, lives on as sort of an electronic vampire- undead, feeding on the living, giving a strange form of succor to those caught in his web. The music is always polished. Not in the sense of being played to perfection (although I won't argue the talents of his orchestra and singers), but polished in the sense of all the edges and unique textures smoothed over and removed. Mr. Welk had a penchant for "couples" singing together, indeed, many of his troupe were married to each other.
This evening, as I was surfing- unwinding after an eight-hour computer seminar (not nearly as much fun as writing these peculiar essays), I happened across a rerun of Mr. Welk's show from 1972. It was perhaps even more hokey than usual (think: cheesy electronic organ) until one of his "couples" did a southern gospel song. The arrangement was bland, the man's singing perfunctory, but towards the end of the performance, the woman, who until this time had been singing sweetly and unexceptionally, started to let her "down home" voice sneak in. It was as glorious as it was unexpected. The wonderful Appalachian melisma, never showy, caressed the melody and elevated the whole performance.
O sister, where wert thou?