Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 11.16.05
Stanstead, Quebec


There's a song in my heart -- and that's where it's staying

Most weekday mornings, I attend assembly at the high school where I work, which more often than not begins with singing. Remember, this is 8:10 a.m. and involves teenagers and hymns. So it's not so much singing as melodic mumbling.

I'm as guilty as the teens.

A rendition of "Morning Has Broken" ends up sounding like "Moaning is [croaking high note], like the first morning / Blahbird has dah-dah, mmm mmm mmm bird."

I sing so timidly mainly because everyone else is. In fact, I can barely hear anyone else, so to me it sounds like I'm the loudest one in the hall. I keep expecting the girl in front of me to turn around and say, "Uh, like, you're making me deaf?" But she's probably thinking she's singing loudly - if she's singing at all, which I can't tell because I only see the back of her head.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just started belting it out, the way I do in the shower or when I want to embarrass my children in the grocery store by singing along with the piped-in Phil Collins.

Imagine it: one voice, rising above the muted crowd. At first the students and teachers would turn and chuckle. "What's with the freak?" they'd ask themselves. But slowly, they'd be caught up by my enthusiasm and courage. Soon others would join in. Soon we would be as one, our spirits and voices soaring, ready to face the day, nay, life!

Not likely to happen. Except the part about the freak.

I like to sing. Most people do. Humans are born with a natural predisposition to make music. And most of us actually think we sing well, the way most of us think we have a good sense of humour even though this too is far from true.

When we're little, we walk around singing songs we make up in our head without a trace of self-consciousness. When Kate was about four, she even had some favorite lyrics to accompany these made up songs: "Ohhh, ricken jorden, a ricken jorden." To this day we have no idea what it meant but she sang it from the heart. I just hope she wasn't putting a hex on us.

When I was growing up, I attended the United Church, where hymn singing was a big part of the service. (An aside: Does anyone remember "Hymn Sing" on CBC Television? What a concept: nice people standing around singing hymns. It made "Lawrence Welk" look like a hoedown. And this ran for 30 years!

Oh Canada, oh my….) Everyone in the congregation sang along, even us teens. Sure we goofed around with harmonies and changed the lyrics of "Lord of the Dance" to "Lord of the Pants." But we sang.

Then one day I attended my first Catholic service. I noticed hardly anyone sang. What? Catholics don't sing? Too winded by all that kneeling and standing? (That, of course, is a religious stereotype and I now know better; they were choked up from all the incense.)

What gives? They're missing out on one of the only fun things to do at church besides watching people doze off.

I now realize that it wasn't a Catholic-Protestant thing but that some groups are endowed with the mysterious chemistry that inspires singing, others are not, just like some parties are a good time, others are at my house.

So I think it's great that we sing at school each morning, and I'm not just saying that because my contract is up for renewal. It brings the school together as a group - an awkwardly shy group, grant you, but a group nonetheless. And I'm confident that some day we will capture the magical chemistry that will have all the students singing loudly from the heart, probably the day the morning hymn is "Come on Feel the Noise."