That Time Motown Tried To Kill Us All



Even just the word itself holds such warmth for me. It’s always coursed through my veins, been as much a part of me as my own thoughts.

I hum without thinking about it, to the annoyance of some. For the brief amount of years I was in school, my report cards always referenced my “special” humming in some way.
If I hear someone say a phrase that has been used in a song, my brain will immediately scan the archives and locate the “file”, so I can break out in spontaneous song for absolutely no reason.

I came by it honestly. My mom always had a guitar in the house, playing her originals and teaching me how to keep a beat and hear harmonies.

At the time I thought she was weird, but now I totally appreciate both of those abilities. Also, this  vinyl record cover of hers from 1980.

I had very little formal education (one year lessons each of piano, voice and bass guitar), but I was always exposed. In the right place at the right time, up for anything.

One Christmas season, I was in 3 different choirs, learning the Soprano AND Alto parts of The Hallelujah Chorus and going on to perform it no less than 11 times. (After that, we spent some much needed time apart. I now love it again.)

I’ve done solos, duets, trios, quartets, talent shows, choreography, sign language, school choir, church choir, community choir, musical theatre. Gospel, Christmas, Madrigal, Worship, Pop, Musicals, Songwriting, Recording, and Lullabies For Children Who Just Won’t Sleep.

But until last month, I had never done…

Some friends in Coquitlam were having a Ballroom Fundraiser at the Italian Cultural Centre, trying to raise money for the St. Francis of Assisi school to build a new gym. They asked us to join one of the live bands (Steve playing electric guitar, and me as one of 3 back-up singers) and we said “sure!” BEFORE we knew the evening’s theme was “Night At The Apollo.”

We had no idea what we were in for.

For 8 weeks, we practiced. And for almost every single one of those, husband was a little, shall we say, done.

He’d been sick, had a tooth broken, had said tooth REMOVED surgically and horrifically, was teaching ukulele to children, working long days putting in floors for high-maintenance customers, and now we needed to pack up all his guitar gear for a 2 hour practice, while paying a bridge toll and driving half an hour each way. (Never fear, we were later reimbursed.)

To commit to this for music you love is challenging; for music you know nothing about is slightly torturous.

Such is the life of a musician.

The day of the gala arrived. Steve worked until 3 since we had to be at the ICC by 4pm for a sound check.

It was one of the first hot days of the year. Steve’s truck was in for repairs, so we had to take my car – the one without shocks or air conditioning.

By the grace of God and mid-afternoon traffic, we found the Italian Cultural Centre. We opened the doors to find someone we knew, and it was like swaaaaaaank.


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Our crowd

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Our stage










And here are some cra-mazing things that happened.

1.) The two of us got all the gear inside and set up with ONLY ONE argument and mini-breakdown in the parking lot.

2.) We had a sound check, and one of the other back-up singers (Nina) asked me to “sing something from Frozen” for her little girl (Sophia) who was watching us. So, in a child-like voice, I sang “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?” while Sophia alternated between dancing in delight and watching me carefully to make sure I got every word right. Whatever,  I nailed it.

3.) I applied my own make-up without looking like a painted whore.

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4.) Since we didn’t go on stage until 9pm, we went to Brown’s Social House for dinner after the sound check. I’d never been before, and everyone was like “Don’t order anything too creamy or weird cause it’ll mess up your voice” and I was like “screw that, I’m in a new restaurant and I’m going to ENJOY IT” so I ordered some Chipotle and Lime Chicken Fajitas with pico de gallo and guacamole and oh my gosh. To die for. (and now it’s coming to LANGLEY!!!!)

5.) As we were getting ready to leave Brown’s, the other back-up singer (Josie) told us she didn’t feel very good. We waited for her outside while she used the bathroom. When she came back out, she said, “Soooo, I probably shouldn’t have eaten that Filipino food for lunch. Can we stop at the drugstore on the way back for some Pepto-Bismol?”
Uhhh, one of our strongest singers was experiencing hard-core diarrhea mere hours before the show — OF COURSE we’re gonna get her some Pepto. She was a trooper; she survived the entire night gulping back doses of the Pink Stuff every half hour while joking, “Good thing I wore sturdy bike shorts underneath this dress!”

6.) I drank a whole cup of wine while playing poker backstage — all without flinching.

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7.) Our set of 13 songs went smoothly and quickly and rather funly. Well, except for one minor thing…you’d think it was that I fell off the stage after trying to sing and remember our choreography while wearing an itchy feather boa and high heels, but I actually survived that…

Weeks ago, our lead singer/director of the band, Tami, told us that the last time she’d been a part of something like this, she’d thanked everyone involved in the event but completely forgot to thank her husband who’d been taking care of their 5 kids the entire time. So THIS TIME, she wanted us to learn a medley of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “Upside Down,” and “I Say a Little Prayer For You” as a way of dedication and apology for the last time.

The moment she’d been waiting for had arrived. Her husband was in the crowd, the people were listening, the band was ready.

She told the story of why she was dedicating this particular piece to him.

And then the rest of us started panicking as we realized that she’d forgotten the order of the music; it was not, in fact, time to make a dedication to her amazing husband. We started to scramble through our music; realizing her mistake, she finished her public dedication, and then told us to just continue the song order as planned.

But the crowd didn’t know how things were supposed to go. So all they heard was a touching dedication and then….

“We could have had it aaaaalllll, rollin’ in the deeeEEEeeeep….you’re gonna wish you! never had met me! tears are gonna fall! rollin’ in the deep!”

After we finished rocking the Adele, Tami goes, “And NOW it’s time to sing for my husband.”

8.)  To close out the evening, one of the school’s bus drivers crashed the stage as an Elvis impersonator. We knew he was coming, but nobody else did. For the first time that night, everyone got up from their tables and crowded the front of the stage, screaming and taking what I assume were really blurry photos. I wanted a photo with him after the show, but he ran away too fast to change out of his clothes, cause he thought he was gonna die of heat exhaustion. So here he will remain in legendary mystery.


9.) Steve and I didn’t break up.


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These are the faces of  2 people who used their talents to entertain, and help children get a gym, and who are so hitting McDonald’s as soon as they can get everything back into the sauna–err, car.

Aretha, I hope you are proud. Justa-justa-justa–justa-justa-justa-justa little bit.

7 thoughts on “That Time Motown Tried To Kill Us All

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