GOSHEN -- No idea.
Vocalist Bobby McFerrin threw away his playlist years ago, so when he steps onto the stage at Goshen College on Jan. 18 he will have no idea what he is going to sing. Jazz tunes, children's songs, some rhythm and blues might all become part of the performance as McFerrin, alone in the spotlight, creates an unexpected, completely improvised, no-idea-what-will-happen musical concert.
"I never know what the show is going to be," said McFerrin, a 10-time Grammy winner. "To me, that's very exciting."
Son of the late Robert McFerrin, the first African-American man to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, Bobby McFerrin has composed a lively career that includes conducting major orchestras, collaborating with such renowned musicians as Yo-Yo Ma, Chick Corea and the Vienna Philharmonic, and exploring all the possibilities of his four-octave range in a cappella singing.
He is probably best known to popular audiences as the creator of the 1988 hit "Don't Worry Be Happy."
His stop at Sauder Concert Hall is part of a concert tour that will feature performances in Wisconsin, Illinois and New York as well as Croatia, Germany, Norway and France.
No matter what venue McFerrin displays his vocal wares, he will be comfortable not knowing where the ensuing downbeat will take him.
McFerrin focused on vocalizing shortly after he landed a gig playing piano and singing in a jazz bar. He carried a tape recorder around with him, singing in it all day. Scales and arpeggios eventually gave way to sounds. Recalling his early practices, McFerrin said he never tried to imitate musical instruments but rather concentrated on language and what the different letters made his mouth do.
Now McFerrin is called a "vocal innovator" since "singer" no longer adequately describes his abilities. Despite the rise of his popularity and, perhaps with his audiences increasing their expectations, McFerrin is not tempted to scribble a playlist onto a piece of paper. He makes up his music and he shakes up his audiences by coaxing them into joining his fun.
"In their heart of hearts, they want to," McFerrin explained.
Those who nestle into the seats at Sauder Concert Hall will certainly be asked to sing. McFerrin wants them to use their "blue jean" voices, not worry about the quality of their musical talents and, of course, not be nervous about having no idea what is coming next.
"Only thing I want to do is sing," McFerrin said. "I want to make people sing with me. I hope they leave with a sense of joy. Let's make a joyful noise together."