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The excitement first felt by performing in high school musicals lasts to this day

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Somewhere in this 1950-51 St. John’s High School yearbook portrait of the cast of The Mikado is the author, Max Roytenberg, playing a nobleman. (Photo: Boroditsky Bros. archive)

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Do you sing? I’ve always fancied myself as one who had a good singing voice. I love to sing. I’m always ready to join in when there’s a sing-song, particularly if I know the tune and especially if I know the words. Although I never had ambitions to be a singing star, I know myself too well; I’ve always been first in line to make a musical noise. 

For me, singing is associated with all those times around the campfire at camps. The nostalgia for those times may be the underlying reason for the positive response I have toward the whole idea. Those memories carry a strong positive emotional content. When I was a kid I never had the least idea about singing. I never was a fan of singers. I never bought records or tapes. I was too busy reading all those delicious books.  

My greatest exposure to singing was my experience in the chorus when I was in high school. St. John’s Tech, in Winnipeg, annually presented operettas by Gilbert and Sullivan. I loved that. It was a lot of work, and we spent many hours after school practicing before we could get things right.

I was in the chorus every year I was at that school. I appeared in H.M.S Pinafore, Yeoman of the Guard and The Mikado. Some of the tunes are still with me after more than sixty years. The excitement, and even the thrill, of the performance occasions, lends a rosy glow to my memories of those times. 

It was only in later life in Montreal, when I tried to repeat my vocal exploits, that I really learned to appreciate how small my talents were in this area of endeavour. I learned that I was prone to take up the tune of anyone who stood beside me. I learned that my capacity to keep strictly to the notes of the part I was supposed to sing was variable. I had no knowledge of how one could sustain a note. In short, it was a hazardous undertaking for anyone to include me in a respectable chorus.

To make things worse, I was known to become confused as to where we were in our production, and to launch myself forcefully into song when the rest of the chorus was steadfastly silent. These were the only solos I ever performed. 

To the detriment of those who might be concerned about sound pollution, these small negatives have never discouraged me from forcing myself on an unappreciative public. I leap with lusty abandon at the chance to join in any occasion offered to show off my limited abilities.

Over time I have passed from tenor to muffled baritone, and I continue eager to share my gifts. I have never been offered money to do this, but I do feel it is my duty, nonetheless, to carry on, especially when the occasion permits me to share in a buffet that can sometimes accompany such occasions.

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It is only fair that I sing for my supper. When I am engaged in my full-throated roar, I am too busy to note the pained expressions of those around me. This is just good fun for all of us, isn’t it? I am just entering into the spirit of things, and covering for those lacking a musical sense, aren’t I? Or perhaps they are just too shy, a failing from which I do not suffer. Surely they are enjoying the noise just as much as I am?  I worry only if people start to leave.

I sometimes sing in the rain, something like whistling in the dark, to keep up my spirits as I venture into unknowable places. Let the winds blow the clouds away to deliver to us another sunny day, I say.

We were fortunate enough, at one time, to have had a second home in Arizona. Really only a trailer, it permitted us to spend the worst winter months away from the cold and drear of Ireland, when we lived there, and the rainy season in the rain forest where we live lately. What had brightened our time even more, was to have fallen in with a group of Canadians, (of course, there are Americans there as well,) fleeing the winter cold. And, wonder of wonders, one of them played the guitar and liked to sing.

Well, was I happy? You betcha! We’re just a small group, and at those times I was out there in the evening between the homes, belting out songs as loud as I could. It is as if I was back at camp. And they tolerated my enthusiasm. And sometimes they fed me. I was singing for my supper, again.

Now, in our current hideaway, we’ve joined a group, mostly oldsters, who meet weekly to reprise all the melodies reaching back across recorded history. My Bride is a witness, and if I perform as required, she will serve me a heaty brunch as a reward when we return home. I can do this!

Max Roytenberg is an author, poet and blogger, with many published articles in Jewish periodicals in Dublin, New York, Winnipeg and Vancouver. After a career as an Economist and Executive in the Food Industry, in Canada and abroad, he writes, and lives with his Bride, in Vancouver. He has children and grandchildren in the US, Canada, China and Israel. His last book, “Hero In My Own Eyes”, is available through major booksellers and on Amazon.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

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