By Ralph Trenary
My family is hooked, and I’ve spread it to friends and family. “It” is the amazing story that is building around Scottish singer Susan Boyle.
Boyle catapulted into the spotlight after her breathtaking initial appearance on “Britain’s Got Talent.” Even perpetual sourpuss Simon Cowell is shown with expressions shifting from surprise to a toothy grin. Boyle won over a cynical and dismissive panel and audience with a stunning performance, and has already caught the attention of the American morning TV shows.
I’ve deliberately avoided shows like this for decades. “The Gong Show” really spoiled my interest in talent shows and every time I caught “Star Search” the performances seemed like duds. The recent launch of reality talent shows didn’t catch my attention because of the multi-night saturation ploy, and I remain unimpressed by the Internet/cell phone, public-voting gimmicks.
After a couple of viewings of Susan Boyle’s performance, my frozen perspective thawed a little. Then, I looked back at the American tradition of talent shows and thought a little bit more about my own experiences in music.
Despite my low appreciation for “Star Search,” it turns out the show actually provided some boost for the careers of Drew Carey and Dave Chappell. This is a small success ratio compared to the classics, “The Original Amateur Hour” and “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Search.”
One benefit of spending all those years in band and choir from elementary school through college was the immediate trivia question response that Wayne Newton and Pat Boone started their careers on the stage of talent shows. So, I started with those two and dug several layers deeper to see what had been going on over the decades that I might have missed, and might now enjoy in light of the novelty of Susan Boyle’s success.
The celebrity list for the two classic shows provides quite a number of surprises: Gladys Knight, Ann Margaret, Tony Bennett, Roy Clark, and Patsy Cline. For my varied taste and musical appreciation that’s quite a line-up, even in comparison to the manufactured “stars” coming out the mouse house since the launch of the self promoting cable channels.
Coming back to Earth, and Berthoud, I pulled out the back issues of this paper showcasing the wealth of performances by Berthoud High School students. These are special experiences for the community, the school kids, their friends, neighbors and family. I certainly know that with only a few exceptions memories of the almighty academic classes fade over time, but my music groups and particularly portraying Van Buren in “Damn Yankees” my senior year will be part of my heart and soul forever.
Over the past two decades I’ve had a few opportunities to sing in a church choir, when the “professionals” would let us mere amateur parishioners onto the program, and more chances to pull out the trumpet. Still, I find that there is great inspiration in a solo song that reaches the level of magic and miracle, and Susan Boyle has re-lit that light for many people all over the world.
This is the power of the Internet. What took the Beatles years to accomplish as a British act working for their breakthrough in America, Susan Boyle is accomplishing in just a few weeks. She’ll be back for her next round on “Britain’s Got Talent” in May.
Simon Cowell asked, “What’s the dream?” before Boyle sang her first song. Watch it and you’ll hear her answer and come to your own conclusion about how close she is to realizing that dream. I’ll tag along with Boyle, cheer for her success, and watch for the next fantastic amateur to step into the spotlight.
See Susan Boyle on the Internet at, among other sites, www.youtube.com and enter Susan Boyle in the search field.