A Little Background Music

June 12, 2011

A lone, empty park bench faced a tent with no one inside.  A small band stage was set up under the tent with lights and sound equipment, apparently waiting for nightfall.  Some friends and I sat on the bench to eat our fettucini that was generously textured with parmesan.

Behind us were dozens of parish festival connoisseurs who had spread out blankets and set up chairs under trees in the park by the church.  Kids played rag-tag football in the open field.  Young mothers in trendy, full-length summer dresses pushed all-terrain strollers around the bocci courts.

From the lonely stage-tent, a young voice on the speakers said, “I’m John Welch.  I’m going to play a little before the band gets started.”

John played his acoustic guitar.  Grand, I thought, a little background music for the picnickers and bocci players.

The music was gentle and unassuming.  He played the guitar and sang.  That’s all.

But the sound he made seemed more than a kid with a guitar.  By the first refrain, he had my full attention.  His playing was more than competent.  His voice clear, articulate and passionate.  His stage presence was more than confident.  He seemed unconscious of the world beyond the tent—he was fully immersed in his music.

I couldn’t believe a kid at a church festival in Indianapolis could produce such a sound.  I started listening for mistakes.  I scrutinized his intonation and pitch.  I checked on the pick-ups and throw-away syllables.  He was nailing all of it.  No traces of sloppiness came through the speakers.

I can’t tell you what song he played.  I’d never heard the song before.  But his rendition left nothing to be desired.  It felt complete as it was.  If he could have produced a CD of that rendition, I would have bought it immediately.

I avoid spontaneously clapping for free public entertainment, as a rule.  But I had to applaud for John Welch.  Luckily for me, so did several other cognizant passersby.

Would Mr. Welch win American Idol?  I don’t know.  Is he the next Justin Bieber?  I don’t know.  That’s a long road to travel; a lot of difficult choices to make; a lot of pressure to put on oneself—and a lot of dumb luck.

What I can tell you is that John Welch possesses a rare gift.  I hope he uses it well and enjoys it along his way through life.

If you’d like to hear him sing, you can find him at CDbaby.com


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