Our friend who introduced us to the big draw of the little town of Paris is an artist named Homer who has lived here for thirty years. Although Homer has given us much advice over the course of our friendship, one piece of good advice really struck a chord: The biggest risk is to take no risk at all.
Homer always wanted to sing, but could never bring himself to take lessons or join a group because he was too embarrassed to sing in front of others. He just didn’t think he would be good enough. It wasn’t until later in life that he overcame his anxiety, hired a music teacher and began his training. He has a lovely voice and now isn’t afraid to belt out a verse in mid-conversation; we sing Moo to sleep with a sea shanty he taught us on one such occasion.
Today, Homer sings with the Ontario Male Chorus, a group of men that practice regularly at St Stephen’s on-the-Hill church in Mississauga. We tagged along one morning to see what it was all about.
The choir is brought together under the tutelage of Robert Cooper, CM, a well-known artistic director, conductor and choral trainer who previously taught at the University of Toronto and who served for 31 years as Executive Producer for CBC Radio Two’s Opera and Choral Music program. This vast experience brings a depth of knowledge as well as nothing less than a vivacity of spirit to each practice. His performance clearly sets the tone for the session and inspires the singers to feel that there’s something in the music that they want to express.
Singing in a choir is, like many endeavours, an avenue of education – of practicing a learned skill. Since mustering up the courage to join the choir, Homer has learned about breath work, posture and tone. He has learned about taking in air in a physical and controllable way that allows you to exhale it deliberately. His love for music and song has deepened with his understanding.
Now having sung for many years, Homer must reckon with the fact that his ability might have gone further if he had started singing sooner. As the saying goes, one’s reach should always exceed one’s grasp, but it often takes a lifetime of practice to meet one’s own expectations. His advice to nurture your interests before it is too late to enjoy their rewards is personally prescient for us, and we’re grateful for friends like Homes who constantly encourage our creativity. In fact, he does so in more ways than one – the vintage lens that took most of the pictures on this blog was a gift from Homer.
Do you have a dream you wish you’d acted on years ago? We’d love to hear about it (and encourage you to act upon it!). And if you have an interest in joining this group, send them an email or check out their Facebook page. The choir puts on about two shows annually and is open to anyone who wishes to take part, experienced or novice.