Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Beginning to sing again.



When I was young and forced to live as a boy, I was always taken to church on Sundays.

We would sit in a row on the horrid church pew, and however bored I was I was supposed to be a good boy and sit still. And when it came to the hymns, I remember feeling embarrassed at the tuneless sounds that came out of my father and big brothers.

My mother's voice I don't remember.

It made me feel self-conscious about singing. I knew i didn't want to sound like them.

And then I was eight and sent to boarding school the music teacher was a terrifying man, with his bald head and his bushy eyebrows, and he used to call the new boys up one by one to stand in front of everybody and sing.

He would call up maybe two boys a week and although I liked music the classes became a torment because I was so afraid of being called up to sing.

I think he called me up last of all and so I went through a whole term like this. He had taught my big brother ten years before, and had obviously failed with them, and so he looked at me with great hostility and disdain.

And then he played "Three Blind Mice". No-one else had been asked to sing a nursery rhyme, and I felt so humiliated he'd asked me to sing that.

So of course I couldn't sing it, and that made the humiiation a hundred times worse.

I never sang in that school again.

We had to go to chapel twice a day, and I loved some of the hymns and I am sure would have loved to sing them.

But I couldn't. I just couldn't somehow.

In the next school the music teacher saw us on our own and he was gentle and encouraging and kind. He played a note, and to my surprise I could sing it, and another and another.... And I could sing them as well.

He asked me if I'd like to join the choir.

I was thirteen years old and my voice hadn't broken and I felt ashamed. I had a sense that there was something wrong with me and I wasn't a proper boy and I couldn't bear the thought of standing in front of the whole school with my high voice on display, somehow.

So I said no.

And at that school we had chapel twice a day and I never joined in the hymns there either, though some of them I loved, and my joining in was all part of my being so unbearably alone.

I've had a very good life on the whole and there's very little I regret.

But I do regret that "no".

I keep trying to get through this hurt and this pain; and so there I was this afternoon in front of my lovely teacher trying to sing "My favourite things", I think because Julie Andrews is so lovely to the Von Trapp children in her care, and I want to be kind to the hurt child inside of me too.

Music is so beautiful. It makes me cry to think how absent it has been from my life for so long.

And I wonder how much beauty we are denying ourselves in our lives because it's been blighted by trauma.

"Be careful", went the second song, "Be careful, it's my heart".
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