Open Road: Voice of an Angel
It all started one night in the Ukraine. We were traveling with a group from Salt Lake City, en route to our sister city of Chernovtsy. We stopped first in Kiev, and one night we explored a district of steep and twisty cobblestone streets. From somewhere up ahead of us, we could hear the voices of young women singing. We hurried to catch sight of them, but every time we turned a corner, they were gone. We kept climbing until finally, breathing hard, we caught a glimpse of them just before they disappeared around yet another turn: two teenage girls with a half dozen children in tow. They had beautiful voices, but there was something about the place: the cobblestone streets, the stone and plaster buildings that made them sound like angels.
Ever since that night, I've had my eye out -- or rather my ear out -- for the perfect spot to sing, the one that, no matter what sort of voice you have in real life, makes you sound like an angel. Resonant surfaces are the key -- stone or brick or tile. Hotel bathrooms are good, but I prefer something more quirky, like the stone huts Hal and I discovered south of Ely, Nevada.
Life magazine called Highway 50 the "loneliest road in America," and we had turned off it onto an even lonelier road when we came across what looked like six domed houses shaped like beehives, but nearly three stories high and built out of stone. They looked like they might have once housed a lost tribe of hobbits or elves. In fact, they were huge ovens. Back in the last century, they were used to turn whole trees into charcoal in order to fuel the smelters for the mines. Now they are scrubbed clean inside -- and they sound great.
Hal and I almost always have instruments in the car, and no one else was around so...
It's great to find hidden or secret places, because you feel like you can really let loose. Public buildings are tempting, too -- all that marble and those echoey halls. I was reminded of this just a few weeks ago, on a sunny winter Saturday when our friends Meghan Merker and Ron Kane wanted to see the Utah State Capital Building. It's a grand old building perched high over Salt Lake, and inside you can look up into the dome, four stories above, painted like a Utah sky.
The bad thing about singing in a public place is that it is public. When you slaughter an old favorite, people notice. But that's the good thing, too.
I haven't yet found the PERFECT place to sing -- that place that makes you sound like an angel -- and maybe I really don't want to. How could I ever leave? But I did come close once, when Hal and I stumbled across an ancient little church in Glencree, Ireland, just north of Dublin. The church was well taken care of, and yet we had the sense no one had visited it in a long while. Crows lived in the rafters and we sat in a silence broken only by their calls. And then ...
Singing with the birds on the open road, I'm Teresa Jordan for the Savvy Traveler.
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