Sarah Calvert

"Do You Believe in Magic" The Lovin' Spoonful

Me at the Free Times Cafe in Toronto.....

Over the past few days I’ve been singing. A lot. It feels kind of strange that this hasn’t been the case lately. Usually I sing quite a bit; for those of you who know me, you’ll know that I often sing not only when I’m performing or practicing, but also when I’m having a conversation. It’s a trait I inherited from my mum and Nana. For example, if I’d ask Mum when we’d be going to the mall to get new shoes, she’d belt out, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow. It’s only a day away!” Likewise, if I’d be chatting with Nana about what she did on the weekend she’d croon, “Missed the Saturday dance. Heard they crowded the floor. Awfully different without you, don’t get around much anymore.” And so, over the years, I’ve cultivated the art of singing in response to questions, or as a way of expressing what I’m feeling. It used to drive an ex-boyfriend crazy, “Do you have to sing everything?” This was also the same fellow who used to get embarrassed shopping with me when I’d ask the salesperson if they’d be willing to cut me a deal if I paid in cash and whine, “Why is it that you think we’re in a Mexican market everywhere we go?” Clearly, he didn’t appreciate my songstress Jewish heritage, so needless to say, that relationship didn’t last too long: I am who I am. And that means, I’m a singer. 

This wasn’t always my path however; I remember in high school in Barrie I auditioned for the famous “concert choir” in grade ten. To my dismay, I didn’t make it. It could be because I was auditioning for a soprano part, and I was really alto, or it could be because I was just having an off day. Luckily I didn’t let that faze me, and I auditioned the next year, as an alto, and made it which meant that I could go to New York with the choir to an international competition, which was an amazing experience. Another highlight of singing with that choir was visiting a women’s shelter and performing for the residents. We sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and that was my first realization that for some people, things aren’t so easy. We had a conversation before we performed about who some of these women were, and what their experiences had been with domestic violence, familial abuse and other issues they’d faced. This shook my little upper middle class bubble and my heart bled for these women. As we sang, “When you’re weary, feelin’ small. When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all…” tears ran down the faces of the audience, and down ours as well. It was such a powerful connection and the music we sang allowed us to express what our adolescent words could not. It was then I saw that music is medicine. 

So, back to the reason I’ve been singing a lot these days. First off, it’s because I’ve been teaching primary school lately and the kids LOVE singing so I’m now bringing my guitar to every teaching gig I get. Not only do you get the “cool” status as soon as they see you carrying your axe into the room, but it’s a great form of manipulation. “Okay kiddies, if you do your spelling and math lessons quietly, I’ll play guitar and we can sing before recess. It’s up to you.” Complete silence, with the exception of the sound of pencils scribbling. So you see, music is not only medicine, but it’s magic too. I asked some grade two kids how they felt when they were singing, and the responses I got were profound: “Ummm….music ummm….brings joy to my heart.” Another insight I got was, “Sometimes when I sing, I can say what I want to say, that’s sometimes hard for me to say”, which was kind of like our “Bridge Over Troubled Water” experience. I now think it should be mandatory to begin every day in school singing. We used to do that with “O Canada”, and even before that, with “God Save the Queen”, but now I’m thinking that Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” might be a good opener. What do you think? 

The past weekend, one of my fave mantra musicians Nirinjun Kaur, came to Nelson and taught about sound and meditation, as well as doing a concert. I attended both days of the workshop and chanted like nobody’s biz. Her devotion, not to mention mesmerizing voice inspired me to get my ass off the ski hill for a few days, and onto the piano bench. My own mantra album, “Santiago Sadhana” has been on hold for many months now as I’ve been trying to settle back into Nelson life, teaching, taking care of myself and my adrenal issues, and fitting in skiing. Music has been taking the backseat, and that hasn’t been working. I really need music to come up front and ride shotgun; when it does, it makes me feel alive and purposeful. On that note (ha…yup, can’t help those puns), this morning I didn’t get a call to teach and so I’ve lit the fire, am waiting for the room to warm up, then will sit at the piano, warm up my voice, place my hands gingerly on those familiar keys and make magic…I’m now singing a question for you through The Lovin’ Spoonful’s song, “Do You Believe in Magic?”  

Question for You:  When you sing, how do you feel? Where do you like to sing? What do you like to sing? Do you believe in Magic? 

As always, I’m grateful for your accompaniment and for being a fellow traveller with me along this journey.

Much love and light,

Sarah

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