A sign at the entrances to Bloomingdales in White Flint yesterday afternoon said, "Auditions for Western Onion 4th floor furniture."
Sure enough, if you went up to one end of a display gallery in the furniture department, there, surrounded by chic summer sofas and glass-topped coffee tables, you heard singing. To the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah," with a few minor alterations Handel might not recognize, you could hear:
Happy birthday, happy birthday
Hirschel Frickie, happy birthday
Today is your day!
There was more, too. Enough to last nearly half the chorus. Between 2 and 3 p.m., seven people tried out for the privilege and the assignment of singing to you either in person or over the phone.
They ranged in age from 17 up to the late 40s. Some were nervous, and why not? After all, the advance announcement called for not only "a good singing voice (musical training preferred)" but also said that everyone would be asked to sing a song without accompaniment, something some professionals have trouble doing.
The first candidate came around timidly five minutes before the opening 2 p.m. bell, to ask if she could sing right then. She was not sure she could come back in 15 minutes. She did, however, and sang bravely enough when you think that she was facing a TV camera and microphone. But she was inaudible 20 feet away.
When John Davis, the friendly coach in charge of the auditions, asked her if she could sing piu forte, she answered, "Yes, I can. I'm just not used to it."
The second to try out was older and much assured. She belted out the greeting to Hirschel con forza and then repeated it with some espressivo added at Davis's suggestion. Asked why she was interested in singing greetings to people on their birthdays, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, or for a bar mitzvah, she said, "I think it sounds like a lot of fun. And I think that people would rather have this at their door than a cold card."
A confident, grey-haired woman asked if she could sing a song of her own before doing the birthday bit. To the tune of "Jingle Bells" she went through a song that started with her name and said she was glad to be singing for you.
Before the supply of candidates ran out around 3, two young men with pleasant voices were asked to come back at 7 p.m. for second hearings. If they luck out, you may be hearing from them before long.