I grew up as the oldest daughter of Neil and Marian Levang. Yes, Levang with a small v.
That was the name on my birth certificate. My father’s name and my name were both spelled with a small v.
I’m not sure when he changed it by capitalizing the V. Nor am I sure of the spelling on the birth certificates of my siblings. I think he was trying to set himself apart from all the other Levangs of the world.
The name Levang is not French, as so many believe when they see the V capitalized. I remember being tired of always having to explain that it was a Norwegian name.
How many French people do you know that eat lefse and lingonberries or knackebrod with pickled herring?
Others followed in his footsteps. They adopted the capital V in the name.
Perhaps, it was to be more like him. He was a guitar player on the Lawrence Welk Show. It was as close to “famous” as some might reach.
There was a time when I, too, used the capital V. But I always thought it looked funny. It wasn’t my name.
When I joined the military, they went by my birth certificate. So, back to Levang it was.
But for a brief marriage in my late teens, I have kept the name with which I was born. The name of my ancestry.
And I’m pleased to be able to open up a jar of pickled herring and enjoy it with some crisp Scandinavian rye bread.
It really is much less complicated than figuring out how to get the escargot out of its shell.
Anyone who knows me well might have guessed that the letter M would have been the prompt for a post on music. For those who do not know me, music has always been an integral part of my life. It’s part of my story, a family legacy which goes way back in time.
I am the eldest of five children. Both of my parents were musical, so I never can remember music not being a part of my life.
Mom sang and had worked as a young woman in a group called the “Blue Bonnet Girls,” here in the Pacific Northwest. I learned how to harmonize by singing along with my Mom when she sang songs to us as kids. “Mairzy Doats (Mares Eat Oats),” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Three Little Fishies (Itty Bitty Pool)” were among many of the songs that she taught all of us, and are still being taught to her great-grandchildren.
I grew up watching my father on the Lawrence Welk Show and was on several years during the Christmas programs. I thought that many of those memories had been long forgotten until I received a link from a friend reminding me of those days.
I would also go to the studios where he was a studio guitar player for many artists and their recordings. You can imagine how difficult it was for me to keep quiet and still sitting in the studios where they recorded live, without the advantage of the technology today to create perfection.
I always dreamed of a career on stage either as a singer or actress. I never really wanted to be the “star,” but would have been perfectly happy as a back-up singer, or a member of an ensemble singing harmony. I spent much of my childhood in choirs, musical groups, and in several musical plays.
I was not encouraged to pursue an entertainment career. In fact, there was such active discouragement to the point of hearing messages of “never being able to make it,” and “not being good enough.”
In 1981, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to audition for and was accepted to the Navy’s Music Program as a vocalist. After attending the Armed Forces School of Music in Virginia for theory, ear training, etc., my first assignment as a musician was with the Navy Steel Drum Band, where I became the first non-instrumentalist to learn how to play steel drums. Of all my tours as a Navy musician, it was my favorite and it made me a better musician.
In addition to the Steel Band, I have had many experiences as a singer and musician: Ceremonial and marching bands, playing bass drum, cymbals and orchestra bells; concert band adding more of the auxiliary percussion instruments, such as chimes and other “toys.”
I sang the National Anthem for ceremonies, as well as professional sporting events. I sang lead and backup with a variety of small groups and show bands–country, rock, pop and jazz. I have sung in English, Spanish and German. I’ve performed in front of audiences ranging in size from a handful of people to many tens of thousands, to people of all ages. My favorite gigs were singing old jazz standards with a trio in an intimate setting, second only to singing the Anthem.
Since leaving military and musical career in November 1989, I performed many times over the years, working with some small bands; offering my services to sing the National Anthem for various military and civilian functions, and auditioning for plays and musicals, where I’ve been fortunate enough to be cast in a variety of parts, including the Mother Superior Sister Mary Regina (Nunsense). For the most part, however, I gave up performance.
Music is what is in my heart and soul, even though I’ve not pursued it much in recent years. I miss my days of performing, especially where music is concerned.
And although I have been known to meet with friends for an occasional song or two at a karaoke bar, I yearn for the day when I can work regularly with a guitar or piano player, and upright bassist and get back to my “roots” singing a few standards from yesteryear.