Revenge is Astonishing

By Keira Morgan

little girl singing

 

All my life I have mourned my lack of musical talent. It is particularly galling because my father, sister, and three brothers can all sing. Two play musical instruments. I was the ugly duckling quacking in our family chorus of birdsong.

It was the splinter in the sandal of my childhood summers. In our large, communal summer cottage filled with our clan-family of cousins, the adults entertained us 20-odd kids with singsongs. While they played everything from the piano to spoons, we sang. I knew the words to all the songs, so I contributed at the top of my lungs. No one wanted to stand near me. My cousins were scolded for putting their hands over their ears. “She is having fun,” they were told.

As time passed, I grew ashamed. In grade four, the piano teacher refused to keep teaching me, telling my parents it was a waste of their money and his time. In grade six, our teacher told me to mouth the words at the Christmas concert so that I didn’t ruin the class performance.

By the time I reached adulthood, I sang when I was alone— in the shower or driving to work. Otherwise, I kept my dream of being Joan Baez for my next life. Until one day, bemoaning my secret sorrow to a voice teacher I’d just met, she said, “Nonsense, tone deafness doesn’t exist. I can teach anyone to sing.”

The memory of a lifetime of jeers, mockery, and rejection flooded my body. “Oh yeah, I said. “Well, you haven’t tried to teach me.”

That led to the watershed event of my life.

For a time, I resisted her blandishments until she made an irresistible suggestion. Once a week she coached a small group. She offered me twice-weekly free lessons, if I would join their weekly practice. She persuaded me by setting a six-week time limit, after which we would reassess.

I still don’t know why I agreed—a secret fantasy that the right teacher could sprinkle fairy dust and voilà? When the maestra first heard me sing, she flinched. Then she gave me exercises to practice daily. I did. Several times a day. I was obsessed. My husband bought earplugs. After six weeks, I could sing one song in tune—as long as I stood beside the group’s strongest singer.

When I arrived on the last evening, to my astonishment the maestra’s living room was filled with lights, cameras, and a filming crew. No one explained anything but our little group sang our song three times as the crew filmed. Then, a man interviewed us. After everyone left, my maestra and I agreed she had proved her point and we could both gracefully conclude the experiment.

The next day, several of my colleagues congratulated me on my TV debut. That was the moment that I discovered our little group had appeared on Canada’s prime time national news—CBC’s  “The News at Six.”

Because my father, an avid news buff, had taped it, I finally saw the clip. The host had chosen my interview as the centerpiece for his spot. So, in the opening shots of the group singing, the camera slowly panned in onto my face. Of all my family, I alone have sung on national TV.

It was the pinnacle of my singing career: fifteen seconds of national musical glory. It left me with a sense of sweet—albeit astonished—vindication.

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