Do you sing? I’ve always fancied myself as one who had a good singing voice. I love to sing. I’m always ready to join in when there’s a sing-song, particularly if I know the tune and especially if I know the words. Although I’ve never had ambitions to be a singing star, I’ve always been first in line to make a musical noise.
For me, singing is associated with all those times around the campfire. The nostalgia for those times may be the underlying reason for the positive response I have toward the whole idea. Those memories carry a strong positive emotional content.
When I was a kid, I never had the least idea about singing. I never was a fan of singers. I never bought records or tapes. I was too busy reading all those delicious books.
My greatest exposure to singing was my experience in the chorus when my high school – St. John’s Tech, in Winnipeg – annually presented operettas by Gilbert and Sullivan. I loved that. I was in the chorus every year I was at that school. I appeared in HMS Pinafore, Yeoman of the Guard and The Mikado. It was a lot of work, and we spent many hours after school in practices before we could get things right. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that some of the tunes are still with me after more than 60 years. The excitement, and even the thrill, of the performance occasions lends a rosy glow to my memories of those days.
It was only in later life, in Montreal, when I tried to repeat my vocal exploits, that I really learned to appreciate how small my talents were in this area of endeavour. I discovered that I was prone to take up the tune of anyone who stood beside me. I found out that my capacity to keep strictly to the notes of the part I was supposed to sing was variable. I had no knowledge of how one could sustain a note. In short, it was a hazardous undertaking for anyone to include me in a respectable chorus. To make things worse, I was known to become confused as to where we were in a production, and to launch myself forcefully into song when the rest of the chorus was steadfastly silent. These were the only solos I ever performed.
To the detriment of those who might be concerned about sound pollution, these small negatives have never discouraged me from forcing my voice on an unappreciative public. I leap with lusty abandon at any chance to show off my limited abilities.
Over time, I have passed from tenor to muffled baritone, and I continue to be eager to share my gifts. While I have never been offered money to do this, I feel it is my duty, nonetheless, to do so, especially when participating allows me to share in the buffet that can sometimes accompany such occasions. It is only fair that I sing for my supper.
When I am engaged in my full-throated roar, I am too busy to note the pained expressions of those around me. This is just good fun for all of us, isn’t it? I am just entering into the spirit of things, and covering for those lacking a musical sense, aren’t I? Or perhaps they are just too shy, a failing from which I do not suffer. Surely, they are enjoying the noise just as much as I am? I worry only if people start to leave.
I sometimes sing in the rain, something like whistling in the dark, to keep up my spirits as I venture into unknown places. Let the winds blow the clouds away to deliver to us another sunny day, I say.
We were fortunate enough, at one time, to have had a second home in Arizona. Really only a trailer, it permitted us to spend the worst winter months away from the cold and dreariness of both Ireland, when we lived there, and the wet fall and winter seasons in the rain forest where we’ve lived lately. What had brightened our time even more was to have fallen in with a group of Canadians fleeing the winter cold. Wonder of wonders, one of them played the guitar and liked to sing.
Was I happy? You betcha! We were just a small group and when I was belting out songs as loudly as I could, it was as if I were back at camp. And they tolerated my enthusiasm. And, sometimes, they fed me. I was singing for my supper, again.
Now, in our current hideaway, we’ve joined a group, mostly oldsters, who meet weekly to reprise all the melodies reaching back across recorded history. My Bride is a witness – and if I perform as required, she will serve me a hearty brunch as a reward when we return home. I can do this!
Max Roytenberg is a Vancouver-based poet, writer and blogger. His book Hero in My Own Eyes: Tripping a Life Fantastic is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.