Con­fes­sions of a Har­bouraire

The Goderich Signal-Star - - News - Courtesy of Al­lan Liv­ing­stone

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.

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