Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Sing a New Song"

I went along as I so often do when an epiphany is lurking thinking I was just helping fill out the numbers for an event competing for attention with several events in both Thurso and Wick. The Mod is here. A celebration of Gaelic song and culture. The population of Thurso has nearly been doubled by the influx of visitors. Castletown is a bit off the beaten track so despite having a famous and very talented singer and teacher and local singers of national renown, there were only a handful of us sitting nervously on the plastic chairs.

Seemingly effortlessly, Christine Kydd got us all singing and singing together and actually sounding pretty good. We were helped by the influx of real singers but it was a proper choir in that everyone sang. I love to sing, but I am always self conscious that I can't read music, tell one key from another, or remember more than a few notes at a time at the basic up or down level, so simple songs and short ones fit my limited ability.

I was there to help other folks realize their priorities. Since I share their priorities and care for those folks, that would have been more than enough for a good day. I mentioned when we were doing introductions that you really come to understand a place when you can get the jokes and sing the songs. True enough, but I had underestimated, as I so often do, the implications for me of that sociolinguistic truth. More than I had realized, I needed to sing myself into this part of the world.

Someone more sophisticated than I can have a go at explaining how singing about shipwrecks, clearances, and tragic farewells can make someone suffering a desperate homesickness for cornfields and Christmas lights feel better. I'll leave it at the simple truth: a good cry works wonders. I thought I got away with the one tear that leaked out of my eyes as we sang the songs we had practiced earlier in the day at the local hotel. Blame it on the red wine if you like, but I think more than I would succumb to Ian Sinclair's lyrics in "Tak a Dram." Go ahead, try it yourself. Here's the first verse and chorus:

Well the time has passed sae quickly,
And the music's almost done;
heard the fiddler and the piper
The singer and the song.
The time has come for us to leave you
One more song before we go.

Sae button up and aye be cheery,
Tak a dram afore ye go,
Button up and aye be cheery
Tak a dram afore ye go.

The title for this post came from a banner near the pipes of the church organ where the funeral was held for a friend and neighbour who died suddenly. I let the organ and the words drift around me as I studied that banner. Wherever we go when we leave here, I hope there is singing, but just in case there isn't, I'll make sure to do a bit more everyday even though no one can hear me.


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