The behind-the-scenes "making of" documentary essay series about preparing songs for performance.
(I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo
-- (1942; Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, for Glenn Miller and His Orchestra)
From the script for “A Little Travelin' Music”:
Kalamazoo, Michigan, on the other hand, is a relatively small city located in the southwest corner of its state, approximately equidistant between Chicago and Detroit. Its unusual name, however (whose competing etymologies can only agree on a Native American origin), makes the city sounds as equally exotic as Timbuktu, and has thus attracted references in numerous songs. Among the first of these was one featured in the film Orchestra Wives, nominated for Best Original Song in 1942.
Jordan River Crossing:
"(I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo"
Although originally written and performed by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, this song was recreated in Orchestra Wives by a different ensemble. Nevertheless, it was Miller’s original recording that also became the United States’ best-selling record of the year.
Recap: The Sounds of Indiana barbershop chorus presented what we call ‘The Travel Show’ in 2018, following the same “standard documentary format” that had been so enthusiastically received for the previous year’s ‘The Indiana Show.’ As before, this concert format presents a mix of chorus and quartet songs set around a particular theme, interspersed with slides of short video clips each paired with a Ken Burns-style voice-over narration to introduce and sometimes close out each song. The song order for The Travel Show was determined roughly by the geography of each song. From New York City last week, we now jump over to Michigan.
This week’s article will be a short one, though. Because “(I’ve Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo” was the first quartet number of The Travel Show, I wasn’t involved in preparing it for performance! But I decided to include the quartet pieces in the NoN series for the sake of completeness. (You want to see the whole script, don’t you?)
This song was performed for us by the Sounds of Indiana’s premier performing quartet: Jordan River Crossing. If I remember my history correctly, JRC was founded at least four or five years ago at or near Trinity Church in downtown Bloomington. The name reflected both the Biblical Jordan River, since they were at a church, as well as Bloominton’s own Jordan River, which flows through the campus of Indiana University before disappearing underneath the city streets, where it passes directly below Trinity, and emerging a mile or two later. (The river, IU’s Jordan Hall, and Bloomington’s Jordan Avenue are all named after David Starr Jordan, who was president of the university from 1885 to 1891.)
The group’s current members are tenor Thomas Tiggleman, lead Stephen Chambers, baritone Joe Grimme, and bass Daniel Lentz. If the last two names tickle your memory, you may be remembering them from the Pre-flight Announcement section of the script a couple weeks ago: respectively, they’re SoI’s director and assistant director!
Despite attending and ranking highly at several Cardinal District semiannual contests, JRC gained wide recognition here at home when they appeared as the River City School Board in IU’s spring 2016 production of The Music Man. (Someone in the cast mentioned that they already knew a real barbership quartet who had been working together for several years, so instead of throwing together four actors new to the style, they contacted JRC!) Since then, the group has performed numerous times for community events and in other locations around town.
As for “Kalamazoo,” the piece, or at least the barbershop version, is tricky to pull off cleanly: there are a lot of words and rhythms condensed down from a big band instrumentation to four unaccompanied voices. I sight-read it a couple times during an all-quartet rehearsal for the show, but was glad I didn’t have to perform it myself.
In retrospect, I should have invited the quartet to write a guest article on the piece for this week. Ah, well; c’est la vie. Next time. For your perusal and pondering in the meantime, here are at least the song’s lyrics (according to genius.com). See if you can make some sense of the 1940’s language. (What’s a "pipperoo", for instance?)
I got a gal (in Kalamazoo)
Don't wanna boast
But I know she's the toast
Years have gone by (my, my how she grew)
I liked her looks
When I carried her books
I'm gonna send a wire
Hoppin' on a flyer
Am I dreamin'?
I can hear her screamin'
("Hiya Mr. Jackson, ev'rything's O-K-A-L-A-M-A-Z-O")
(Oh, what a gal, a real pipperoo)
I'll make my bid
For that freckle-faced kid
I'm hurryin' to
(I'm goin' to Michigan to see the sweetest gal)
In Kalamazoo (zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo, Kalamazoo)
Oh, what a gal, (a real pipperoo)
(We're goin' to Michigan to see the sweetest gal in Kalamazoo)
A final note for this week: as SoI prepares for our holiday performances in December, we are thankful for the support of our families, friends, and audience members. We might go on singing without you, because that’s just what happens when a bunch of barbershoppers get together, but being able to share our music with you, and the emotions and preparation that come with it and behind it, makes this whole process infinitely more rewarding. Happy Thanksgiving! :)
November 18, 2018