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Thursday, July 18, 1996

Local music professor finds yodeling fame

Staff Writer

Youthful trips to yodeling's heartlands led Dr. Marion Ca- wood to Germanic greatness at Epcot Center this summer.

Or at least a free dinner at the German Pavilion. And two en- cores.

When Cawood and her sister made their trip to Epcot in early July, they went to see the sights - not to yodel.

But when the chance came up to participate in an ongoing yo- deling competition with the theme park's Bavarian band as a backup, she limbered up her vocal chords and went to work.

To hear Marion yodel, Call Newsline at (915) 676-2255 and press 2269

And despite a lack of yodeling professionals in the Texas Mid- west, Cawood turned years of op- eratic training in Germany and vacation trips to Switzerland into gold.

"I went last, so I had time to learn the chord patterns the band was playing," she said. "The audience clapped to indi- cate who they thought should win. I won."

In fact, that same audience called for two encore perfor- mances before she left the stage.

Cawood, a Kentucky native now firmly planted on Texas soil, didn't mention her years of oper- atic performances or that she was a professor of voice at Abi- lene Christian University.

"They asked me where I learned to sing, and I just told them 'Kentucky,' " she said. "That's where I grew up."

She said she remembered well the trill of yodelers she saw per- form while studying music in Munich on a Fulbright scholar- ship and during her two years at the Cologne Opera House.

"Yodeling is really quite simple, but it's also an art form, especially when you start going fast," she said. "So, this has kind of inspired me to learn fast yo- deling - that's my next musical project."

Lest anyone doubt her musical prowess - yodeling is not often considered one of the great mu- sical forms - Cawood will point to her years of performances in productions ranging from Han- del's "Messiah" to "Don Giov- anni" and "La Boheme."

She's also been a guest soloist with the Dallas Symphony Or- chestra, performed at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York and the Kennedy Terrace Theater in Washington, D.C., and placed first in the Metropolitan Opera District auditions for two consec- utive years.

Despite the preponderence of operatic material in her perfor- mance history, Cawood said she loves all kinds of music, in- cluding country, jazz - and of course, yodeling.

In fact, if yodeling has a mu- sical style similar to it in spirit, it would be jazz, she said.

"It's improvisational melody over chord structures," she said. "If you know the chords, you can just take off. It's like scat singing but with different sylla- bles."

Cawood said she wasn't wor- ried some of her academic col- leagues would rib her about her foray into the Alpine musical tradition.

"When you hit your 50s, it doesn't matter," she said. "I've sung all of the operas. This is just fun, and I had a ball."

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