European Spotlight: Lorelei Walden, national anthem singer
July 31, 2006
I was told you began singing with an Italian choir even though you didn’t speak Italian. How did that happen and how does that work?
Someone had heard me sing the Italian anthem on base. They said, “You know, there’s a group that’s looking for some singers” ... I never thought of singing with them so I could learn the language. But you have to. It’s called Coro Polifonico San Antonio Abate. From Cordenons. There are two people who speak good English, but it’s all so fast ... they couldn’t translate for me. So I’ve had to learn. I’ve had individual instruction from the director, but she doesn’t speak a word of English. She talked to me about what I need to do, and I’ve been able to follow her. It’s all come so quickly. They tell me that my Italian is pretty good. Of course, I’m not fluent ...
How did you start singing for base functions?
There’s a group called Cantanti del Inno. That means singers of anthems.
It was all men when I got here. They said the reason they couldn’t get a woman was that they’d drown them out. I was the first female they couldn’t drown out.
How often do you sing the anthems on base?
Not as much as I used to, because of my job. In the summer, with all the changes of command, it got crazy. The most I have ever done is four in one day. I had to change clothes several times, because some of them were more formal.
Speaking of your job, you work as a teller at Global Credit Union. People who work at those kind of jobs usually use different parts of their brain than those who sing in front of people, don’t they?
I don’t know. I haven’t done any studies on brains. I’m very artistic and creative and it’s not something I’m used to. My background is in medical. I enjoy it. Working at the credit union has definitely given my brain a different sort of workout.
Speaking of brain power, how many languages can you sing in?
I speak three fluently and I’m learning Italian. And we sing mostly in Latin. So I guess I can sing in five.
Are you one of those people who sing in the car and in the shower?
I’m always driving in the car and singing. I sing at the gate, though I turn it down some. One time, the guy just held my ID. He wanted me to keep singing.
How long have you been singing?
Since I was a little child. A lot of the knowledge I have of music comes from my mother. She would go and compete in little towns in contests they would have. And she would always win. I grow up in a rural part of the Philippines and we didn’t have television, but we had a radio. It seems like I was always singing.
About the Italian anthem. You appear to sing it very strongly, as if you know all the words. Do you?
It’s in Latin. So even some Italians have trouble with some of the words. I know words, but not everything. But I know it’s important to them, so I try my best. The melody is easy. It’s the words and the proper pronunciation.
How about working with your Italian choir mates?
Being in the group makes me feel very privileged. I always try to be on my best behavior. I want them to have a good image of the base and the people in it. It’s like being a good neighbor. There have been times I’ve brought them cookies or something else from the base. And they just love it.
I heard the choir is doing well.
They’ve worked very hard. We competed in Gorizia recently. Eighteen countries participated. … My group took second. My director told me that we have an even bigger competition coming up in August in Tuscany. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.
Title: Vocalist who sings national anthems on base, and with an Italian choir off base.
Day job: Teller at Global Credit Union, spouse of Master Sgt. James Walden, mother of two.
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