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It Was a Grand Day for Singing

A Grand Night for Singing at the Shaw Festival (Shaw Festival photo credit.)

Wednesday my guy and I took a flying trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Shaw Festival. Well, actually we drove down for a short walk along the main street, a stop at the bakery for some sweet stuff, and a one-hour theatre presentation at the Shaw. Our tickets were for 12 noon, a strange time to be going to the theatre, and they were outside at the BMO Stage on the south side of the property.

We were the first through the gate when they took away the rope and opened up. We chose to sit in the front row and soon were joined by a lot of others. I read through the small program and realized I knew just about all of the twenty some songs. This was going to be wonderful. Every one of those titles brought back memories for me of singing duets with my mother and solos all over the place in the days when every meeting and evening event was sure to have someone performing. Mom and I and my siblings sang for our supper on many a night. I loved it.

It was a cool, cloudy day and we were glad to have brought our jackets. Sandals were not appropriate either but luckily we had anticipated the weather. I was a little apprehensive as we’ve been to a few events lately that were less than enjoyable. We saw a stage play where the actors didn’t seem to realize they should project their voices, face the audience and help the audience know what they were saying. That is their main, well maybe their only job! We saw actors sit and talk to each other as though they were in their own kitchen and there wasn’t a huge audience who had paid money to hear the play. And we missed most of what they were saying.

This day, however, my husband and I were overjoyed. From the first notes sung by professionals who knew their business, we were captivated. I felt my lips moving with the words but, luckily, I didn’t sing out loud even though I wanted to. What a display of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s talents. We all jumped to our feet to reward the actors with a well-deserved standing ovation and every face was smiling as we filed out.

This all made me think again about how important music has been in my life and in the lives of so many of my friends and family. When I am down, music almost always lifts me up. I sit at the piano and go through the songbooks there picking and playing and singing whatever takes my fancy. And when I rise to go back to the rest of my life, my heart is happy and I smile through the rest of my day.

Recently I received a wonderful surprise that is related to this. One day many years ago a few of us Garners got together in the church where we grew up and we recorded a few things, the most exciting for me being my mother and I singing a wonderful duet arrangement of The Lord is My Shepherd. We thought this recording had been lost but a friend found it in his stuff from one of my (now deceased) brothers and gave it to me. Yes, it was ours and, even more thrilling, that duet is on it. I am working on getting it cleaned up and will give copies to my family members. It is amazing to hear our mother’s voice after all these years that she has been gone. I’ll put it on YouTube when we get it arranged in the best way possible.

So I guess the huge part music has had in my life is pretty obvious. It all makes me think of the cutting out of music and theatre courses in schools that has been happening for many years. With the emphasis on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) a lot of boards have chosen to cut out the arts. This breaks my heart for personal reasons but it also ignores the part played by the arts in our world.

In the well-rounded communities that we strive to create there should be room for the arts as well as STEM subjects. And people should be exposed to it all so that they can chose their well-rounded life paths in an informed way. I think how thin my life would be if I had never been exposed to singing in all its many forms. I would never have sung The Holy City as a member of the Woodstock Choralaires soprano section with Dr. Burt-Gerrans directing and tears running down my face, or been part of two other choirs in this community. I would never have directed my own church choir or received 90 marks in the local music festival at the age of thirteen. And I probably would never have written any of the thirty songs I have to my credit. (Here is a recording of me singing a song I wrote for my mother and performed for my great friends’ fiftieth wedding anniversary.)

The music is always what reaches inside me and tugs at my soul. Without it, I would never have got the highest mark in the local music festival. I would never have chosen my mother to sing at my wedding or been asked by my son to sing at his wedding. And I might never have sat down, sad, at my piano, sung my heart out, and stood up a new and happier person.

Because I am an artsy person, my mind and my whole life have been filled with joy through words and notes. And that concert at the Shaw Festival just served to remind me of that fact once again. For me it’s always a grand night or day for singing.

Oh. By the way, I once memorized all of the elements on the Periodic Table and that was great. It has not, however, been a huge part of my life. Music and wonderful words have been.

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