Monday, June 10, 2013

Whistle a Happy Tune

Do you like to whistle? I do. When I was younger and busy with kids and dogs and volunteer duties I whistled a lot and probably drove my family bonkers. Now that I'm older I don't seem to whistle as much, but, like most people, there's always a tune of some sort running through my head and occasionally that whistle emerges. I especially like to whistle a made-up tune out of my own head, never knowing where it will end up. Sometimes it works out, sometimes not. Hopefully nobody was listening.

Until recently, when I saw an article in the paper, I never knew that there are actual competitions for whistlers. (Disclaimer: my whistling is definitely not in the competition category!) Some people can do amazing things when they wet their whistles.

Of course, there are different types of whistles:
  • the palate whistle, where the tongue touches the palate
  • the pucker whistle where the sound is formed with the help of muscles in the lips and cheeks
  • the finger (one or two fingers inserted in the mouth) or wolf whistle, usually used to get somebody's attention (especially pretty girls by young men). This whistle tends to be only a couple of tones and I don't believe is suitable for "playing" a tune
  • the cupped hands whistle: I learned this one as a young camper in the 50's when a counsellor encouraged us to make loon calls
  • the blade of grass whistle: learned this as a kid and enjoy getting kids to try it since it makes a satisfying and most astonishingly loud noise (usually annoying to any adults within earshot). Technically the blade of grass becomes a reed, so it's not really a whistle at all.
What competitive whistlers have in common, besides musicality, are the most amazing tone and fluidity. They also have extensive range and delicate vibrato and some can even accompany themselves with a 2-toned whistle - a third or a fifth interval. All competitive whistlers practice a lot. One of the surprising (to me) elements about competitive whistling is that the entrants have sound tracks to accompany their performance, greatly enhancing the interest and depth of the performance.

Jeffrey Amos , a 38-year old Toronto man entered the 2013 International Whistler's Competition, held yearly in Louisburg, North Carolina,  this year for the first time and came out with second place! Here's the video of him at the competition:

Geert Chatrou is one of the best in the world:

It would be interesting to know whether the members of the orchestra consider him a fellow musician.

Here's the 2009 International Champion, Luke Janssen whistling: he seems to have a unique style that combines both pucker and palate whistling.