Zen in the art of entertainment
I’ve gotten a couple of emails about this clip and see that it’s showed up on at least one other blog: David Phelps doing “No More Night” partly in Romanian:
What’s so striking here is how effortless all this is for him at this point. I don’t mean the Romanian stuff but the superhuman vocalizing. Go back and watch him on some of his earliest Gaither videos, and though he’s never seemed to struggle like most singers … ever … there’s a visible concentration to his manner, a certain selectivity about where and how he adds his ornaments and flourishes. It’’s not so much uncertainty as a degree of carefulness about how and when to hit the turbo button. Now … it seems like he’s just a one-man improvisational machine, riffing off his own ability.
There are draw backs to this approach for sure. A friend of mine emailed a few days ago to say Phelps singing this song gave him … well, the musical equivalent of something inappropriate to describe in polite company. But it actually seems to me like less could have been a lot more here at times … all the improvised filigrees and soaring acrobatics on nearly every note leading up to the big finish. My point here is not so much to complain (shocking, I know) as to note how unthinking all this overmuch ornamentation seems to be for Phelps. Reminds me a little of Loren Harris after he’d been singing “Wish I Coulda Been There” for so long that he started basically scatting his way through entire passages.
Back in another life, when I had been a church pianist for many more years than most children and young adults can stay focused on any one thing, I started to lose interest … in the songbooks from which I was getting material, in the bag of tricks and runs and fills I relied on, in myself, really. And so one day for the offertory I played a slow-downed, self-indulgently ornamental and fully sentimentalized version of … the Flintstones theme song.
A stupid stunt, I know, though actually, it wasn’t that bad, and I got several compliments afterward. I don’t mean to suggest that everyone ought to start pulling juvenile stunts to freshen up their repertoires. Rather it’s this: off-the-rack creative people in general get bored easily with their own work. But astonishingly talented people like Phelps don’t just get bored. They reach a kind of zen in the art of entertainment where the crowd thrilling, ear pleasing inventory of moves and sounds and phrasings pour uninhibited from some deep-set wellhead of showmanship. And back on earth, all the rest of us can do is just stand and stare.Email this Post