Hello, mortal Denise. You may not recognize me, but I am the Big Mouth Billy Bass you thought would “wow” at your family’s White Elephant in Christmas of 1999. It’s me, Billy! Though, please, call me William now. William Bass; “Billy” is unsuitable for a Juilliard grad who has become one of the premier lyric bass-baritones of the oratorio world.
Yes, I now speak with a British lilt—thank you for noticing. A souvenir from my days with the Cambridge University Chamber Choir, I suppose. You like my scarf? It was a gift from the director of the Arnold Schoenberg Choir.
Wow, your house looks entirely the same, if only slightly wilted with age and unfulfilled promise. Ah, and—can it be?—the very same off-white couch where I was unwrapped and gave my first vocal performance. My book only consisted of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” in those days, but the number seemed to strike a chord with your anxious and depressive family, don’t you think? Especially since they were expecting to open yet another parcel of your handmade candles.
By the smell of laundry detergent, I can tell you’re still making them. Brava for your tenacity, Denise!
No, I will not reprise McFerrin for you for old time’s sake. I no longer sing anything written after 1859. McFerrin worked in the winter of 1999 when I had a captive audience, but that was before I realized it was I who was the captive. After that, it was only your son, Liam, who wanted me to sing, and only to terrorize you until you got him a pit bull. And how did you end the fight, Denise? By getting the child a puppy?
No, by dumping me into a cardboard box in your garage, so I would spend the bloom of my youth in damp darkness like Cosette at Chez Thénardier. I didn’t sing for seven years. Not until you kicked my box in a primal rage after you found out Liam dropped out of high school. Don’t worry, I cooed. Be happy.
Do you know what I sang for my Juilliard audition, Denise? No, not McFerrin. Mozart’s “Don Giovanni, a cenar teco.” You haven’t heard of it, so I’ll tell you that it’s sung by a murdered commander who comes back to life to force Don Giovanni to repent for his misdeeds. I thought of you the entire time.
I guess I have you and your family to thank for kickstarting my career. Not only did my raw angst for you score me a full-ride to Juilliard, but it was Liam who sold me on eBay to raise funds for his ill-fated MMA career. I ended up in the hands of Mrs. Brigid Tellermann, a phenomenal voice teacher and legendary coloratura. She knew talent when she heard it.
My repertoire is decidedly broader now. I mainly sing “Erlkönig,” but if pressed at a dinner party, I could bring you to tears with my buttery “Le veau d’or est toujours debout.”
Well, I really should be on vocal rest, Denise. Best of luck with the candle business. And remember—don’t worry, be happy.