Skip to content

Memory seemingly a thing of the past

Is this a musical trend? In this week's Everything King Wendy touts the importance of memorization
Stock image

Apparently this is a new trend.

It is one that must stop before it takes root.

To make a dated reference, let me quote Deputy Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show: "We must nip this in the bud. Nip it!"

I am referring to something I recently experienced at a live concert.

The performers pulled out their cell phones and read the words from the screens.

I was stunned.

I kept thinking maybe they were running the sound from the stage or something. But no, they openly admitted they didn't know certain songs so they needed to refer to the screen.

To be clear, this was not karaoke nor a casual after party when anything goes.

This was billed as a gala, which to me means I pay good money and get dressed up and you, the singer, know the words. That's the rule, or should be.

These performers knew well in advance they were in the show and knew how long their time slot was and I assume chose their songs.  

One even printed the words out and asked audience members to hold them up. Really?

Everyone can have a memory lapse. I am not talking about that. I don't even have an issue with using a lyric sheet if its a new song you are debuting. These songs were 50 years old.

I don't know what to call this other than unprepared, unprofessional and lazy.

It reminded me of how important memorization has always been.

Do you remember having to memorize a "piece" for Sunday school? You worked for weeks and then on Sunday morning and with legs trembling did your recitation. It was part of the lesson.

There was always the Kiwanis Music Festival in which the school choir practised for ages until judgment day. It was crucial to get the words right.

I don't remember if we won but I could still sing to you our Grade 4 version of The Owl and the Pussycat. (I won't, but I could.)

I thought maybe this cellphone use was just a fluke, but after sharing the story with others I found out it is not.

A highly respected Barrie entertainment coach and choreographer shared with me she literally gave up her work with young performers because they simply would not commit to the work.

They wouldn't memorize the songs or the dance steps.

Heads always down and thumbs out texting madly.

After decades, this community leader brought the curtain down on her own legacy.

Maybe memorization is a skill from yesteryear? I truly don't know.

It is what got me through school. For better or worse, it was instant recall that got me to graduation.

Didn't we all use rhymes to remember things?

Grammar: I before E except after C.

Music: Every good boy deserves fun. (E,G B,D,F.)

Poetry taught by dad for us to torment mom: "The cow kicked Nelly in the belly in the barn." (Never forgot that gem.)

My age is showing, but it was one of the joys in life to get a new album and pull out the liner notes and lyric sheet and lay down on the bed to learn the words. Third time through I would try singing along and by the fifth go through I usually had it.

It is one of those things I pray I never lose. Memory. Don't we all?

Having said all that, I respectfully ask all professionals to know your material backwards and forwards before taking the stage.

If you don't know the song  just don't sing it.

Otherwise, your audience feels let down and the memory is not as sweet.

Thanks, from a music lover.

About the Author: Wendy King

Wendy King writes about all kinds of things from nutrition to the job search from cats to clowns — anything and everything — from the ridiculous to the sublime. Watch for Wendy's column weekly.
Read more

Reader Feedback