Friday, May 5, 2006

I wasn't going to post again until after the telethon, so that that post would be first until it was over.

But I have to.

When I was 10 years old, my parents saw an ad in the Hamilton Spectator for auditions for the Hamilton Children's Choir. I had been singing for years already, solos in church and weddings and such, so they thought this would be great for me.

They secured me an audition, and I remember going into Christ Church Cathedral on James Street in Hamilton on a Saturday morning. A girl named Becky and an older girl named Louise waited in the foyer with me for their auditions.

I went into the sanctuary of the cathedral with fear and trepidation. David Davis sat at the piano. He wasn't too scary. Plump and round with dark hair and beard. He played the music I brought to sing on the first try. I was certainly impressed with that. I had been taking piano lessons for 3 years and I was no where near that! He ran me through a couple exercises to test my range and ability to sing on pitch. I think he had me sing O Canada.

Sometime later, could have been days, could have been weeks, we received a letter that I had been accepted into the Hamilton Children's Choir. I was very excited.

For the next eight years of my life, every Wednesday night I sat under the choral direction of David Davis. He was strict. He expected alot. He didn't put up with no guff. He commanded such a respect that those unable to give it soon weeded themselves out. Some thought he was too harsh, not in keeping with the more popular 'sensitive' ways to work with children. You might say he was a teacher of the old school.

I was privileged to be considered by Mr. Davis a kid with some potential. At first, he seemed extra strict. There were some practices that I felt like the only one he was picking on. But gradually, I learned. I learned how to blend in and stop with the 'soloing' in the middle of the choir. I learned what it took to sing in a choir of high quality.

I've got great memories of my time in the HCC. Two tours to the east coast, fell in love with Nova Scotia. Concerts....too many to list. The time we were singing with candles at Christmas and this girl caught her hair on fire. Fortunately the girl next to her slapped it out. Being chosen for an Opera Hamilton production. The antics between our accompanist John Leek and Mr. Davis---always more ridiculous at Christmas for some reason. Interrupting a concert to publicly thank Mr. Davis before my final solo, at my final concert, watching him tear up. Just a little.

And I remember messing up. Forgetting my words during a solo. I was so upset, I think I might have hid in a closet in whatever church we were in and cried my widdow eyes out. Later, I apologized to him.

"For what?", he said.
"For, for...the mistake", I stuttered.

"What mistake?", he said with a gleam.

Even before then, he was inspiring me. When I was 13, I took over the junior choir at church. My only real example for conducting was Mr. Davis. I found that I loved leading choirs and the next five years in the HCC only cemented that and I pretty much patterned much of what I did after David.
After highschool, I worked for a year and then off to school I went. I studied voice at the Moody Bible Institute and as part of my B. of Music degree, I had to take conducting. It was at that point that I realized that I loved conducting perhaps a tiny bit more than singing. I was taken with a new inspiration for my life's work. Choirs. Children. Conducting.

Returning home after five years, I remember going over to Mr. Davis' house and him mentioning that he thought the choir board was thinking about starting a training chorus. Would I be interested?

Would I ever.

The thoughts of working with the HCC as a conductor had flitted about my brain a few times, but I had always dismissed them. Mr. Davis was the conductor. Mr. Davis wasn't going anywhere for a LONG time. I would just have to wait. Look elsewhere for a bit, perhaps. But now....a possibility. Not only could I get involved with the HCC, I could actually work WITH Mr. Davis...

That year passed and I had my son. While he was still in hospital, the creation of the training choir became a reality. I remember leaving Jairus' hospital room one evening to meet with members of the board at the cathedral for an interview. Shortly after that I led a small group of choristers in a mock rehearsal.

I got the job.

For the next two years, I worked under, but more aptly, with this man who had shaped my earliest musical experiences. It had it's strange moments, as sometimes I still felt like that nervous ten year old, but Mr. Davis again put me at ease, just like he did at that years-ago audition. He had faith in me. He saw my potential.

And so, my mentor became my contemporary, my peer. My friend. My advisor in most things musical, and a few things not.

The time came for Mr. Davis to move on though. He had been with the HCC 17 years and was feeling the pull towards a new and different musical avenue. It was with some shock that the choristers and I received word that he would be finishing with the HCC by Christmas of that year, 2002. David was excited to report that he had been hired as the Artistic Director of the Canadian Male Orpheus Choir.

I was honoured to be part of a small team of alumni and board members that organized a special goodbye to David that final Christmas concert. I'll never forget watching all the alumni appear from the vast crowd, and make their way to the front of the cathedral to sing a song that I still believe God set in my path as the perfect tribute to a great man:

The candle flickers towards its last,
Our time together's ended;
The evening spent so swiftly passed,
No richer way to spend it.
Before we head our separate ways,
I'd like in truthfulness to say:
You've made this day a special day,
With songs and kindness splendid.

Here's to song, here's to time;
Here's to both with friends of mine;
Here's to friends who raise their voices high.
Kings have riches widely lain,
Lords have land, but then again,
We have friends and song no wealth can buy.

We each a different road must go,
To mountains, sea and city;
The hour has come to say adieus,
And all the more's the pity.
But first unite in hand and heart,
And sing a chorus ere we part;
For every end leads to a start,
We need not break so sadly.

Here's to song, here's to time;
Here's to both with friends of mine;
Here's to friends who raise their voices high.
Kings have riches widely lain,
Lords have land, but then again,
We have friends and song no wealth can buy.

And till our paths in future cross,
May blessings kindly greet you;
Until that time, I must, alas,
Only in memory meet you.
Often I will sit and stare,
And think upon this moment rare;
The company beyond compare,
For now, farewell and thank you.

Here's to song, here's to time,
Here's to both with friends of mine,
Here's to friends who raise their voices high;
Kings have riches widely lain,
Lords have land, but then again,
We have friends and song no wealth can buy.
~Allister MacGillivray.

Few dry eyes that night.

So what's up with the trip down memory lane, you might be wondering?

I sit here at my computer, tapping my fingers, but not typing. Waiting for the little bing-bong that tells me I've got email.

An email that might say

He's gone.

It's been quick. Just before Christmas they found the cancer. Things were looking real good for a while but...it's a vicious enemy that strikes back just when you're looking on the upside.

Word is this weekend will be the last one he'll see. I won't see him again, on this earth, as the family has requested that his last moments be spent with them.

Understandable. If not for that request, Henderson would be swamped. Literally. When I went to see him a couple months ago, during his first hospital stay, the receptionist at Mac didn't even have to look up his room number. She knew him by name, because of all the friends visiting.

He is well loved.


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