Amazing voices: Duck whistles and gospel singing


This week I’ve heard two amazing voices. Each voice is unique and beautiful.

I heard the first one during my Monday morning run in the dark. As I ran around the Buckeye, I heard a bird whistle that was completely unfamiliar. Oddly, I thought the bird was on the water rather than in a nearby tree. Puzzled over that all the way home. I told my husband about the new bird I’d heard. His response? “Oh, that’s the duck!” A duck? Sometimes my husband tells me “stories” (read: lies) so I was skeptical.

But this time he was telling the truth. Somehow I’d missed the article on our news site, The Bluffton Icon, where Linda Houshower had reported seeing a black bellied whistling duck. According to Linda, this duck has only been seen in the state four or five times. It usually lives in Texas, Florida and Louisiana., but somehow it must have blown off course and ended up in Bluffton, Ohio. It’s tiny by comparison to the other ducks and geese nearby, and has a distinctive orange bill. And if you’re lucky, it’ll whistle for you. My husband videotaped it (see the video on the righthand column of the Icon), but the duck must have been tired of whistling. If you listen to the video carefully, you can hear tiny squeaks every now and then. We went back down the next day and he whistled for us. Seems to be happy hanging out with the big ducks and geese.

Last night, a second voice caught my attention. Actually, when Dr. Crystal Sellers sings, everyone listens — even young children. Crystal, a music prof at Bluffton University, was the featured entertainment during the intergenerational program at First Mennonite’s weekly First Night. Not only can Crystal sing, she’s also pretty good as a stand-up comedienne. She began the evening singing a few traditional hymns, then explained out she “found my voice”.

She grew up singing gospel music in a Pentecostal church. Her dad was the pastor and also a gospel singer. During high school, she discovered classical music and at the suggestion of her music teacher headed to Bowling Green State University to study classical voice. She explained her ongoing struggle with being told she had to choose between classical and gospel.

When her dad died, she put gospel singing on the back burner, saying that was her way of dealing with his death. She focused on classical, but somehow the pull of gospel music was too strong so she secretly joined the BG gospel choir. It wasn’t a secret for long, because she appeared on the front page of the BG News with the gospel choir. Again, she was told she had to choose between gospel and classical. When she entered graduate school, she decided that was it. Gospel was out. Classical was in. And that was that. Until the day a graduate prof suggested she embrace both classical and gospel — a novel idea, thought Sellers.

And that, as she says, is “How I found my voice.” Her voice is well-suited to both styles, as she proved by finishing the night’s entertainment with an old gospel favorite.

This morning, as I passed by the Buckeye again, I listened carefully for the whistle of the little duck. He must have been sleeping along with the rest of the ducks. Not a whistle or a quack or a honk.

I wonder what would happen if Crystal stood near the little whistling duck and introduced him to her gospel/classical voice. Would they end up singing together?

Note: If you want to hear Crystal sing, don’t miss the Bluffton University Gospel Choir concert Saturday, Nov. 13; her brother will be playing drums.

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2 responses to “Amazing voices: Duck whistles and gospel singing

  1. I wonder if Virginia Starr was her teacher at BG. I always enjoyed Ms. Starr’s concerts. Now, if only we could get that duck and Yogi, our African Gray Parrot, together.

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