Join Me

When I started volunteering with a new Grade 6 class in September, I knew a few things.  I would challenge these kids to think independently, to express their opinions and to be no one but themselves.

As a symbol of self-expression, I knew I’d sing “O Canada” whenever I was in the class in the morning.  And it is expression, not performance.  It’s processing oxygen as you throw yourself into the world.  No divas, no Eltons, no concerts … just human beings giving ‘er.  Or so I hoped.  I didn’t know how many kids would join me in song.

As it turned out, nobody did.  Occasionally I thought I heard another voice come through, but usually it was just solo me.  I wondered what the other twenty-seven people in the room were thinking as I bellowed out “God keep our land glorious and free”.  Along with my disappointment was hope, that the seeds I was planting would nestle into fertile ground.

Yesterday was an a.m. volunteer gig.  As the mid-morning announcements described the events of the day, I knew what was next.  And the oomph inside decided to speak up:

“I challenge somebody to come stand beside me and sing ‘O Canada’.”

The opening chords wafted from the PA.  I stood alone … and then I didn’t.  Kids tumbled over to me – some shuffling along, some striding with head held high.  About ten of them stood and sang with me.  Oh my.  I was indescribably happy.  “Thanks, kids.”  It was the best moment of my day.

This morning I was back at it, helping a few students with Math, marking a few quizzes, seeing who could find the typo on the worksheet projected on the Smart Board.  And then announcements.  This time I would say nothing.  Would it be “if you build it, they will come”?  Or simply solo Bruceness as before?

Alone during the opening chords.  And then a boy appeared in my right peripheral vision, soon to be joined by other kids.  We sang, again probably ten of them and me.  Kids started things.  I didn’t have to.  Happy, happy, happy.

Will any of them remember these two singings a year from now?  I bet a few of them will.  And when they’re 32, rather than 12, may they stand tall and say what they need to say.  Because their voices are needed.

Choir

As a teenager, I sang in the Melrose Park Presbyterian Church Choir in Toronto.  In my 50’s, I sang in the Port Stanley Community Choir.  Throughout the years, we made beautiful music in the blending of sopranos, altos, tenors and basses.  I was a bass … and I still am.  I love singing.

Now I’ve moved to Belmont, Ontario, and there’s a new group on the block – the Belmont Community Singers.  I went to hear them this afternoon at the United Church.  Part of me still wants to sing exquisite songs with others, but I lean towards doing that in a folk music group rather than in a formal choir.  Still … there I was in the front row, only a few feet from a violinist.  Twenty-five singers and an small orchestra.  Lovely.

I was the only one in the front row.  Otherwise the church was pretty packed.  Perhaps I’m odd.  As I sat there, I journeyed back to other Christmas concerts, at the Port Stanley United Church.  How I loved singing O Come All Ye Faithful with the audience, listening to Gord Stacey give us O Holy Night in his deep bass voice, and finish the concert each year with the delightful A Special Night.  As the last note hung in the air, I always wondered if that would be the last time I’d sing this precious song.  One year … it was.

The Belmont Singers walked to the church sanctuary from the back, and soon Break Into Song did exactly that.  Most of the faces were shining.  I only knew one singer but it felt like I knew them all.

A woman strode forward for her solo.  It was Gord’s song – O Holy Night.  She was nervous.  Within the first few notes, her voice cracked.  She apologized.  She coughed.  Amid the beautiful melodic moments, there was more cracking.  I moved my spirit inside her and wished her well.  I stayed inside her the whole time, loving her, willing that her best would emerge.  Near the end of the piece, there’s a very high note.  She nailed it!  Waydago, my unknown friend.

“Brian” was the choir director.  He kept drawing out the beauty of the music from twenty-five mouths.  They were so very much with him.  And so were we.  For one thing, he was a major comedian.  At one point, he was requesting that we leave our e-mail addresses after the concert so the Singers could let us know about future musical events.  “Okay, that’s enough selling!  Back to the songs.”  Perfect.

We the audience got to sing with the choir.  What a blessing.  Armed with our lyrics sheet, we blasted out It Came Upon A Midnight Clear and then (!) O Come All Ye FaithfulJust like the good old days.

As we let the last notes of We Wish You A Merry Christmas fade away, we were a community.  Singers and players stood in response to the standing audience.  Smiles were flying across the room.  Merry Christmas, dear friends.

***

Will I allow the good old days to return?
Will that be me on the stage a year or two from now?
Hmm …