Imagine Carl Crosier’s surprise when he picked up the phone yesterday morning and heard the Lutheran Church of Honolulu choir singing “Happy Birthday” to him! Now in his second week of “retirement” from the position of Cantor, he has been attending St. Theresa’s Co-Cathedral on Saturday nights, leaving Sunday mornings free for a two-hour walk and a leisurely morning at home. I believe it was Allen Bauchle’s idea to have the choir sing “Happy Birthday” to Carl, but before they did that, Miguel asked them to sing it in solfege.
For those who don’t know, solfege is a system of syllables assigned to the notes of the scale (do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti). If you remember from the musical “The Sound of Music,” there is a song which begins “Doe, a deer, a female deer,” and goes through all the solfege syllables. I don’t think I’ve used solfege since college days when we used it for sightsinging, but since I have perfect pitch, I knew where the pitch was but didn’t always know what syllable to use. I used to write in the names of the syllables above the notes as a crutch.
In any event, the LCH Choir first sang “Happy Birthday” in solfege, which goes like this:
Sol, sol, la, sol, do, ti
Sol, sol, la, sol, re, do
Sol, sol, sol, mi, do, ti, la
Fa, fa, mi, do, re, do.
Try singing that at your next birthday party! By the way, “Happy Birthday” is the most well-known melody on the planet and is sung all over the world, in different languages. Two sisters, Mildred J. Hill (born 1858) and Patty Smith Hill (born 1859) composed “Good morning to all” to the tune we know as “Happy Birthday.” It was published in 1893 and copyrighted by Jessica Hill, a third sister, in 1934. The following year, it was copyrighted by the Clayton F. Summy company and eventually became the property of Summy-Birchard Music, owned by the conglomerate Time Warner. For more interesting reading on the “Happy Birthday” phenomenon, check out this website.