Treasuring the sound of children’s voices

A treasure lies hidden in our children’s school, a precious jewel. Yet the adults who gaze upon it are few.

I was one of the lucky ones this past June, when I attended the end-of-year student talent show at my daughter’s elementary school. The acts were swell, some outstanding. But the star act, in my humble opinion, happened when the whole student body stood and joined in song. I can’t even remember the song they sang, but it was bone-chilling. It must be something about the innocence of their voices and their collective earnestness.

What parents ever have access to that experience? We see the individual classes of youngsters singing I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (shudder) or I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas (yikes!). We might see the school choir, and they’re fabulous. Sometimes a whole gym full of parents might sing a carol while waiting for the Grade 4 play. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the experience of witnessing the swell of 150, 300, or 500 children’s voices all raised in song together. It’s magical and overwhelming. I can tell you because I remember being part of it myself as a wee thing, and raising my voice in the school gym along with all the other students in the school to sing “Caa-naa-daa, Weeee love yooooo…”

It was the 1967 Centennial Song, and it solidified my identification as a Canadian. (Ok, no cracks about my age!)

And then I remember competing in the Kiwanis Festival, in which student musical groups perform and compete. The highlight, though, was when all the students from every school, all together, stood and sang Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring by J.S. Bach. Wow. Absolutely overwhelming. It’s worth it to keep the school music programs going, if only to give children that experience.

Two years ago, it hit home how much I love the sound of so many children’s voices singing together. I had the opportunity to attend a student assembly in December at a 400-student elementary school. Besides the teachers, I was probably the only adult in attendance. A pity. Those students all raised their angelic little voices together, and raised the rafters. Maybe it’s the contrast to the cacophony of noise that usually spills out from a school playground.

You can understand the difficulty a school might have in exposing this treasure to the parents. If you were to have all the parents sitting in the audience, you can’t have the whole student body standing on the stage. Even if you could squeeze them all on, the fire marshal would be sure to hear about it and haul the principal up for endangering society. No, that’s just not possible. So parents rarely, if ever, get to see, to hear, to experience those ephemeral moments.

Maybe go to the talent show. And hope they sing O Canada.

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