The Mitchell Singing Boys
In the picture, I'm the one with the purple circle.
My brother Gerard is in the red circle down front, and two of my
very best friends are Mike Cizmar, (green circle),
and Ron Izuno, (yellow circle). One of my brothers best
friends is Kermit McCoy, (lime green circle).
Dennis Munoz, (turquoise circle), grew up to be the
principle of the high school I attended,
Daniel Murphy High School, that's where I went after
I left the Choir.
In the blue circle is one
of the friends I admired and respected most. He was
'First in charge', which in the choir meant
that you were responsible to keep all of us in line
in the absence of Mr. Mitchell.
Leander Nye was a kind and gentle person
with a big heart. When I first joined the Choir, I cried and cried
every day for months. I was thrust into this
fast paced professional kids singing organization with children
with big voices and attitudes to match. I was
made fun of by lots of them including Mr. Mitchell, who would pout
out his lower lip and say "poor little Orlando, but
he played the violin at the Hollywood Bowl" much to the amusement
of the other kids. (that was the credit that my
mom used to get me into the Choir).
But Leander, in a very noble way, kept the
kids off my back and spoke to me kindly and sincerely.
When I found out that he had passed away
my heart sank, he was such a gentile giant. I loved him dearly.
In later years I became 'first in charge', and
I passed on Leander's legacy of helping the new scared and
unsecure boys who came in.
There ere are hundreds
of stories of our
adventures getting on
and off of stages, on
movie sets and
well, after all, we were
just boys who loved
to goof around. For
instance, next to
me on the right is Karyl
Miller, (who still comes
to go christmas caroling
with me). Now, he's
serious, with a Masters degree, but in the choir,
one night he decided
to take Mr. Mitchell's
station wagon for a
joy ride, and then
while telling us about it
with his pajama bottoms swinging from on top of his head, Mr. Mitchell came
up behind him,...oouch!! It wasn't pretty. We used to
think that Mr. Mitchell was the worst nightmare to ever happen to us. But
now in retrospect, we were cute, charming, devious, sneeky
prancsters, all conniving at the same time, with different ideas as to how
everything should be run. Somehow though, we would
always pulled it together to do outragiously professional shows. We
sang like angels, and made every elderly woman cry.
At the same time we stole each others food, short sheeted each others
beds, sabotaged each others costumes and played
insane games in the rectories of the churches we sang in.
That's my brother Gerard, center front
Mr. Mitchell, on the other hand, had is own agenda
as to why we were there. He was possesed with the idea that we could
somehow embrace his desire to sing in perfect pitched
three part harmony, with the schmaltz and vibrato of Judy Garland, all while
he swore at us, called us rotters, made distorted anguished
faces at us, as he pointed to the direction each of our parts had to adjust
to correct the harmony intervals. And to our amazement,
and his credit, we actually did sing in perfect pitch, (most of the time).
We sounded like angels with that vibrato and schmaltz that
we would hear him demonstrate for us, so many times. But this was,
for the most part, a fear based relationship. And it was no
wonder that we were nerotic two faced kids, (at least I was). He would
make these faces in concert while facing us, then he would
turn to the adoring crowd, camara or congregation and smile with a look
of angelic satisfaction, then back around to us, Mouthing though
his clinched angry face, "You rotter, I'll get you for this"!
But he would always seemingly forget the mistake
you made, untill the next rehearsal when that solo or something, got
taken away from you.
In all fairness, Mr Mitchell did have a kind and generuos
side, which I saw directed at many around him. He immediately volunteered
with out pay, to play for not only my High School graduation,
but for both of my weddings. He is, without a doubt the finest, and most
seasoned organist on this planet, with a reportoir that won't quit.
Now, as an adult, I find him to be a kind
gentle personality, giving, and informative to all who cross his path.
He's a pleasure to be around, and seemingly remembers
all of the magnificent adventures we all had in the chior. Looking back,
it would seem that it was nessesary for him to be as strict
back then, for us to be so good. I don't think he's cognisent of the
emotional trama I endured in those early days in the
choir, and at this point, to me, it dosen't matter. I enjoy seeing him
enjoy the fruits of his accomplishments, and indeed, he
has lived a life filled with success after success, and helped countless
boys on thier path to success. In the final analysis,
I owe to him, much of the credit for my success.
Furthermore, he taught us more about sight singing,
harmony theory, melodic srtucture and practical phoentic vocal technique
than most of my professors in college knew. He was a real
life theologian, versed in the dogma of Christianity, Judism, Budism,
Hinduism, Islam, Christian Science, Scientology,
Lutheran, Episcopalian, Protestant, Baptist, Greek Bizantine Orthodox
and we can't forget Mary Baker Eddy. We sang for all
of these folks, and he took great pleasure in explaining to us what
they belived, and why they believed it.
You would think that was enough, but like a Ginsu Knives
informercial, there was more. When we sang for various dignitaries,
like the President, we would received an Emily Post's etiquette
cliff note education as to who was who at every formal function.
Who was 'Your Honor', who was 'Your Highness', who's ring to kiss,
who's hand to take. From the Pope to the Boy Scouts, there
was no unturned stone of society to learn the inside track about.
When I left the Mitchell Singing Boys I immediately
trashed my Roman Catholic roots and went searching for a real
truth that could be offered by this world.
I bless Mr. Mitchell, who is now 92 at his last birthday,
who still said to me,.."Ah little Orlando". He is still The foremost theatre
organist, and still touring at 92 years of age, playing the
the most prestigious silent movie venues in the country.
I urge you to visit http://www.mitchellchoirboys.com/
to read more about this man's great life accomplishments.
In summation, although I know I must keep comming
back to this page and adding more and more stories, but for now.
I would say that the quality that I have taken from
my time with Mr. Mitchell, that has served me the most, is showmanship.
That ability to go on, to make that life, that endeavor,
whatever it might be, go forth as a show that must always go on.
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