When I was a teenager I took singing lessons. I may have mentioned Mrs. Devereux before, she was the proper piano / singing teacher, in Aurora where I grew up. You had to audition for her, and pass, before she would even consider taking you on as a student. Then you were expected to keep to a rigorous lesson schedule, homework was mandatory, as was being a part of her choir. I loved every minute of my singing lessons. I would run home from her house, 5 blocks from mine, to practice the new material that I had been given that day. It was the one time that I could do homework that I loved and I was good at.
I began to compete in the York Region Music Festival my first year with Mrs. Devereux, she thought it would be good experience for me. I was put into classes with girls who had been training for quite sometime and I was told that I was just here for the experience and not to worry about my placement in the classes. The adjudicator, Mr. Gordon Scott, was a lovely man who seemed to fall in love with my voice and manner placed me either 1st or 2nd in all my classes. Much to horror of Mrs. Devereux who was expecting some of the other girls to do much better than me. I was thrilled and it boosted my confidence greatly.
As the years went on, I competed in the festival, tried out for musicals, sang at home for my mother’s guests, and numerous friends and others weddings. I’m not sure what made me stop, Mrs Devereux, who was a widow, retired, married her boyfriend and moved to London ON. I tried other teachers but it never held the same magic as with her. Then life got in the way, even though I continued to sing for friends and family, singing was pushed to the side.
This summer, as I mentioned, I spent quiet a bit of time with the neighbours at the cottage. They are a very musical family and after dinner when it begins to get dark here the guitars come out and the song books and everyone gathers in the “old” cottage upstairs to sing.
At first I was unsure, I knew a lot of the songs they were playing but not the words. Sometimes, there were lyrics available but other times the songs were just old so everyone knew the words (“Good bye to Nova Scotia” comes to mind). Then the Allison Krause hit “Baby, now that I’ve found you” was the next one that got played a lot, or as I like to fondly refer to it “the stalker song”, (listen to the lyrics sometime and you’ll see what I mean). They made it easy, the guys can play just about anything and they have a lot of books you can search though to find songs that you may know. As the summer wore on, I became more confident and more comfortable with the fact that no one judges your ability.
Then I was introduced to Stacey Kent, a wonderful jazz singer who has recorded over the years with her husband, who plays the saxophone. The romantic haunting melodies are so beautiful and the lyrics so familiar because you’ve heard them many times over the years, from Billie, Ella and Dinah. One of the 1st times that we were listening to this music “I have a crush on you” came on and I began to sing along to the lyrics. Bringing back the memories of rainy sundays when I was a young teenager, listening to Linda Ronstadt in her jazz phase, (yes she had a jazz phase, 1981).
I regained the confidence to begin singing again, to actually dream about singing again. I’ve put together a “Sam’s CD” on my itouch that has 10 jazz standards that I want to learn. I was told that I have a beautiful voice, something I haven’t heard in a long time, something that I had forgotten. For some reason this was never talked about in my family, my mother loved to have me sing for her friends, she was my biggest fan in this respect, however I always got the feeling that it was more about showing me off rather than that I was talented. The rest of my family never mentioned my singing and over the years I forgot that I do have a talent and that I should be using it.
This summer, because of people who included me in their family tradition, something I thought I’d lost, a part of who I am, came back. I will be grateful for this gift forever.
Dreaming Big from the East Coast,