Confessions of a Harbouraire
Many years ago, more years ago than I can really remember, my grade seven music teacher at Hamlet Public School in Stratford announced that our class was going to be singing in the local Kiwanis Music Festival.
For weeks we practiced a song that I have long forgotten, something about a Mexican girl. The day arrived for our performance. I remember being decked out in a white shirt and black pants and shaking nervously as we stood before an audience in the auditorium of the Stratford City Hall. Apparently I lived through the experience and to this day I do recall being shocked to hear the adjudicator announce that we had been awarded first place. Not being a serious singer, I was amazed at this result. Back then I put it down to the fact that the girls in the choir provided the strength of our performance and we boys were just there for decoration.
More than fifty years later, I found myself sitting in the audience at many choral concerts here in Goderich. (Goderich has a rich culture of choral music.) I wondered if I could be a part of one of those choirs. I had a little bit of confidence that I could participate because as a church-goer and as a worship leader I had participated in choral church music for many years. But more than that, I recalled from my youthful experience, that choirs depend not so much on the strength of individual singers as they do on the team work of everyone in the group. I confessed to being very unsure of my ability to read music, but wondered if I had a good singer singing close to my good ear, I could participate fully.
And so it was that I became a member of the Goderich Harbouraires Men’s Choir. The experience has proven to be a real joy. I have come to the belief that there are many more fellows out there that could find the same joy in being a part of our choir. Here’s why I say so.
First of all, our director, Liz Tolchard picks great music! Some of the music we perform is familiar to us as pop music that we have heard over the years now arranged for a men’s choir. Some of the music pulls at the heartstrings and many of us are moved close to tears as we sing. Sometimes we sing with children, like the Glister Children’s Choir. Always we can look out at our audiences and feel the pleasure that comes from hearing us sing. Secondly, singing with the Harbouraires has put a little discipline in my life. Singers in choirs must listen carefully to the director, the accompanist, and the other singers. They must watch the director for instruction, tempo and mood.
The comforting reality is that when all the singers stick to the same discipline, the sound is wonderfully more than any of us could do individually. In a way, I can say that it’s an exercise in brain-building, and frankly, I don’t know anyone who would deny the value of that skill!
Thirdly singing with the guys is a stress reliever! When we stick to the discipline, we forget about all the stresses that have occurred in the day. The argument with a neighbor, where we will find the money for a brake job on the car, when we will find time to replace the BBQ propane tank – all these things leave us, at least for the duration of practice or performance.
Fourthly, singing with the Harbs is an exercise in team building. All of us are equal. New singers, experienced singers, together we can produce a magnificent sound. Nobody can be pretentious about their voice.
Fifthly, singing with the Harbs makes the heart soar. Even on days when we feel we have not done our very best performance, we can look out on the audience and see how our music warms the hearts of all who listen. The Harbouraires have been singing since 1947, when George Buchanan brought the idea back from war-torn Europe. Ever since then fellows of all stripes have been practicing and entertaining audiences for over seventy years. All of them have enjoyed singing. For all these years, the Harbs have been committed to our community.
We practice on Tuesday nights in the basement of Knox Presbyterian Church at 7:30 p.m. New singers are always welcome. If you are nervous about the experience but would really like to try us out, just show up. For a practice or two you can hide among the rest of us.
For more information contact Jim Mulhern at 519-525-8631.