Originally Published: September 4, 2003 6:10 p.m.
During his a cappella singing shows, Bresnen, 68, provides his audience with a list of about 60 songs, which he sings from memory upon request. On the back of the list he provides a comment card, with spaces to check whether his singing is "very good," "good," "OK" or "stinko."
What's disappointing, though, is that he doesn't have a space to check "great" or "excellent." Luckily, though, he does provide space for comments, such as "wonderful voice," "great command of the music" and "nice choice of songs."
Bresnen performed Tuesday evening at New Frontiers Natural Foods Store in Prescott, and he regularly performs at local assisted living centers.
Although Bresnen performed for years in Chicago piano bars and restaurants, usually with the accompaniment of a pianist or a small band, he only recently began singing without musical accompaniment.
"It's certainly better to have a pianist behind me, or a combo," he acknowledges, "because the more people backing you up, the better it sounds."
While he performs without music for the shows he currently sings, he chooses songs that "have lyrics that are terrific, or that could stand alone as an instrumental."
Bresnen sings songs that have happy, silly or sad words. He sings songs that deal with love and life, loss and laughter.
One song that stands out is "Mermaid," which is about a man who falls in love with only the top half of a mermaid: "She was just my taste right down to her waist, but the rest of her was fish."
And, in "The Wonder of You," Bresnen sang, "your kiss to me is worth a fortune … your love to me is everything."
Most of the songs Bresnen sings were popular in the early and middle part of the 20th century, and are still touching today. He said the song titled "My Love" topped the charts 35 years ago.
"Singing a cappella doesn't make me feel special," Bresnen said, "but when I reflect on it, probably not that many people my age or younger go out and do it. I wouldn't be surprised if I was the only old guy going around, singing a cappella."
Bresnen called his style "unusual," but he said it's been pretty well accepted.
"I've got the ability to sing in front of crowds, so I use it," he said. "It's better to share it with people than it is to sing in the shower."
Whether under big lights on a big stage in a big city, accompanied by a big band, or vocalizing alone in front of a small crowd in a small café in a small city, Bresnen's clear voice deserves many listening ears.