Bill Seymour: Why I Love Singing About Clowns (even though I hate clowns)

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I love singing with Sonnenberg Station for several reasons. I'll let you in on a few of them here. 

First, Tim Shue is one of the finest musicians I have ever met, AND he is an extremely enjoyable director to sing under.

Second, the men of Sonnenberg Station are incredibly talented, and we like to have a lot of fun, even as we are serious about making excellent music.

Third--and I am assuming this is true of all of us -- I love hearing the laughter and joy of the audience when we get something right, when they feel like we have connected with them. That's a pretty cool feeling. For this reason, Johnny Schmoker has to be a favorite, because the audience laughs with us so well. Otherwise, I hope never to have to sing it again.

Okay, there is one more reason--Travis Pauli has an awesome face when he sings, and no one puts more effort into singing well than Travis.

Speaking of Travis, he and I were talking at practice the other night, and we both agreed that our motivation for singing is pretty shallow. We recognize that there are words in the songs, and sometimes those words are deep, meaningful or even worshipful; nevertheless, the ones we enjoy are the ones with fun tenor lines. I could more easily hum a few bars of my favorites than I could quote the lyrics. A piece I really like to sing is the one where the basses start out "hum, humm, hm hm hm. Do bat deee." No clue what the title is.

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But really, I think the piece I've liked most is the one I like the least. "Send in the Clowns" has lyrics that do not attract me at all, and I find the melody schmaltzy, and I'm afraid of clowns. The arrangement we sang a few years back, though, was out-of-sight good with lush chords and big sound. That was fun.

I majored in voice performance and pedagogy at Heidelberg College in the 1980s. Soon after, I felt and followed a call to ministry, and music took a seat to the side. Sonnenberg Station helps fill the need in my soul to make great music. I like it when we sing a straight-up classical piece, because it feels right in my wheelhouse, but I appreciate it more when we sing (and we usually do) songs in styles I have little experience with because I learn new things and grow musically.

 Seymour as a singing lad. 

Seymour as a singing lad. 

This season, our concert music is the hardest we've had since I've been with the Station. It's vocally difficult, especially for guys like me pretending to be tenors. There are complicated chords and rhythms and lines. Yet, I have never been as excited for a season as I am this spring. If we get this right, it will be fantastic. Of course, there is always a chance that we could crash and burn, and that adds to the fun. But we won't. In fact, I think we'll sing better than ever this spring.

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 Bill Seymour and his wife Allison. 

Bill Seymour and his wife Allison. 

Bill Seymour has been singing with Sonnenberg Station since the 2011 spring season, predominantly as second tenor, although, he says, when director Tim Shue wants to torture him, he jumps up to first tenor. He also likes to join the low basses when they go over a part because "they are real men and I like to pretend."

"One season," Seymour says, "they let me play the egg for a song. Oddly, I have not been asked to do that again." 

Bill Seymour has lived in Ohio since 1983, but grew up in Connecticut. Seymour has been married to Allison, who hails from western New York, for 25 years. They have two boys, 21 and 15. For the past 10 years, Seymour has served as lead pastor of Orrville Mennonite Church. Prior to that, he served churches in Millersburg and Canton. 

One fun fact. about Seymour's Sonnenberg career. "Tim enjoys trying to get me to mess up words and entrances during at least one concert every season."

You can catch Sonnenberg Station at any of this season's upcoming concerts. Hope to see you there! 

Posted on February 17, 2014 and filed under Singer Bios.