Written by Scott Bernstein
Earlier this month, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne honored his friend David Bowie by performing The Thin White Duke’s “Heroes” with about 100 vocalists via Canadian project Choir! Choir! Choir! in the lobby of New York City’s Public Theater. Byrne has shared a post on his website sharing his take on the collaboration and video of the stunning “Heroes.”
Here’s some of what Byrne wrote about the experience:
Usually, Daveed from the group teaches the main melody, arrangement and harmonies to the audience and then he and Nobu guide them, but last night the lead was handed off to me on the Bowie song “Heroes.”
We did it in the lobby of the Public Theater…not a real venue or stage, but it worked fine.
[Choir! Choir! Choir! mastermind] Daveed [Goldman] first comes on stage and does some warm up—He and Nobu [Adilman] (who conducts the “audience”) tell jokes and get everyone comfortable, then they ask everyone to sing along to a song that everyone knows. No arrangement or parts learned at this point—just singing along. No pressure. They did Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” which everyone joined in on, all singing along with the lead. It was not only a nice vocal warm up, but psychologically it got everyone used to the idea of singing in front of others and gave everyone a taste of the physical and psychological euphoria to come.
So what happens when someone sings together with many others? Byrne explained:
A couple of things I immediately noticed. There is a transcendent feeling in being subsumed and surrendering to a group. This applies to sports, military drills, dancing… and group singing. One becomes a part of something larger than oneself, and something in our makeup rewards us when that happens. We cling to our individuality, but we experience true ecstasy when we give it up.
The second thing that happens involves the physical act of singing. I suspect the regulated breathing involved in singing, the act of producing sound and opening one’s mouth wide calls many many neural areas into play. The physical act, I suspect, releases endorphins as well. In singing, we get rewarded by both mind and body.
No one has to think about any of the above—we “know” these things instinctively. Anyone who has attended a gospel church service, for example, does not need to be told what this feels like.
So, the reward experience is part of the show.
Watch David Byrne lead Choir! Choir! Choir! on “Heroes”: