Encore! Encore! For The Depends
by Jeanne Arnold
The Depends joined the Midwest UU WomanSpirit weekend in Madison with this year’s theme, “We Are the Garden.” Barbara’s and my lives have been enriched each time we attended these weekends in years past, but this one was the best because The Depends performed in Saturday night’s talent show.
After Friday evening’s official welcoming, many women started drumming. This was rare in the past, but it’s grown so quickly as we joined in with over fifty women drumming their own drums, shaking rattles, clapping and line-dancing across this spacious church sanctuary. Vibrations shook us and the room.
Inspired by Saturday’s workshops on women’s issues, feminist spirituality and a healthy vegan supper, we headed back to the sanctuary to enjoy excellent performers in a well-balanced program. During intermission, we moved our gear to the front of the platform and stage fright started creeping in on us. We were playing before 200 women; we were the last act and we wanted to leave them laughing.
Finally the emcee, like a circus ringmaster, announced, “What are we waiting for? Here they are — The Depends!”
Barbara’s repartee started with her favorite joke for selected audiences. “When we were younger, we were tempted to call our band The Tampon Strings Orchestra, but now that we’re older, we named ourselves The Depends.” That always knocks them out. We hit them again with Sharon’s belting out Barbara’ theme song, “That Depends.”
“Will you love me when I’m old and gray? That depends . . . Will you still love me when I lost my way . . . Will you still love me when time takes its toll?/Well, that depends. Oh that depends./Will you still love me when I’ve lost control?/Well, that depends. That depends. That depends. . . .
The weekend’s garden theme was perfect for “I’m a Lonely Little Petunia in an Onion Patch” with Betty adding a sorry wail on her violin on the “Boo who, boo hoo, the air’s so bad it takes my breath away . . .”
Betty’s stands, her violin and bow gesturing wildly to get attention; her jokes scattered throughout our gig go over with moans. “Why do melons have fancy weddings? Because they cantaloupe.” Or “It’s raining and my girlfriend has been staring at the window for about an hour — I should probably let her in.” But the biggest groaner was “What kind of socks does a gardener wear?” and a comic in the audience hollered, “Garden hose!”
The eye contact, the rapport, our whirly gig hats, all of us belting out kooky songs and jokes in a perfect room for sound, brought waves of pleasure and laughter.
We made them laugh again with our “In the Still of the Night” including swampy sound effects. During one rehearsal, the song was too high for me so I fooled around and “sang” it in a false soprano and the song got into our repertoire. I had slipped on a flowered dress and a hillbilly’s hat,Sharon scratched a stick across the rack on her wooden frog that croaked, and Mary Lou made her cricket chirp. When my soprano voice got too loud and scratchy, Mary Lou donned earmuffs and Sharon put earmuffs on the frog.
Some in the audience actually wiped their eyes, their tears flowing from laughter. I was marvelously awful. I couldn’t even find the correct octave to start, let alone hit the high notes. Mary Lou had heard me do this before, of course, but she said she almost lost it herself. Someone told me later that what I did wasn’t easy, as if musicianship was a factor in our goofing off. What havoc we did to an old Cole Porter song.
“Encore! Encore!” at the end and we pulled together “Beer Barrel Polka “ to fit the “There’s a garden — a beer garden.” Barbara strummed like a rock star on her guitar until a string broke.
Momentum. Don’t break the momentum. But we stopped.
It got quiet while she hustled in her guitar case to find the right replacement and, with calm hands, began to string it through her guitar. Before I thought about it, I put my face into the mike, showed the women my necklace with an inch-long harmonica hanging on it. I tucked it between my lips and played it into the mike. Its big sound shocked me when amplified and I quietly played “You Are My Sunshine. . . “ with an awesome audience response singing with my tinny tiny tune-maker. Everyone knows that old turkey song and when we finished it, I held up my harmonica again on my necklace and told them, “I keep it on a string so I don’t swallow it.” With everyone roaring again, I marveled where my spontaneity came from. Me! What a thrill. We’re going on the road!
With a guitar strum, Barbara struck up the band again, Joanne pulled out the stops on her accordion and rolled “out the barrel,” Mary Lou whacked away on the drums and cymbals for the polka riff, I smacked away on my bang stick and washboard, beeps, bells and whistles, Sharon led us and the happy crowd singing our unrehearsed encore.
We got standing, stomping ovation from the crowd still hollering for another encore!
The emcee quickly intervened before we even considered going on. “Let’s quit while we’re ahead,” Joanne shouted. Good timing too for our “roadies” to help us carry stuff off the stage. We collapsed with adrenaline peaks falling as we settled down to a more normal pulse rate with mutual congratulations to us all and each other, I heard Barbara say, “Jeanne was really pumping her harps.”
While our host committee turned the church sanctuary to a garden theme for tomorrow’s full Sunday service, several teasing, giggling and singing women brought bottles, snacks and sodas to our hotel room to celebrate a full day of inspiration and an evening of delight.
Starting with a year of meeting to writing our spiritual autobiography together and almost three years of Depends rehearsals and performing two, three times a month, our Depends band members slowly retired. We were tired of hauling our heavy equipment around. We needed some cute, young dykes to be our roadies.
Joanne’s hands grew numb and her fingers didn’t work well on her accordion keyboard. Then I’d blow my whistle; we’d laugh and start over. Betty’s arthritic neck suffered after holding her fiddle under her chin for a long time. Sharon and Mary Lou left the band after the others left the band
The Depends, our merry musicians, those playful pranksters, disbanded.
Now I am handing the pen and paper or the keyboard and computer to the new Racine Writer in Residence who begins their shot next week.
I thank you, my readers, with your overwhelming responses to my blogs sponsored ArtRoots and its sponsors, the Racine Literacy Council and funded through a generous grant from the Osborne & Scekic Family Foundation and Writer-in-Residence Coordinator Nick Ramsey.
I also want to honor six UNsung women and their nominators who received recognitions for their contributions to our community and our world. You may read their blog at <racinewir.com>They are
With special thanks to my graphic artist Mary Nelson and my editor/techie daughter Jody Spencer.