Thursday, September 20, 2012


Last weekend, Joe and I went to Glasgow for the weekend.  We were staying in a budget hotel (with bunk beds) not far from the city centre.  There was a cinema, a bowling alley, a casino and half a dozen restaurants nearby.  We were there for two nights.  The bus stop into the city centre was just a short walk away.

As we were on our way to the bus stop there was a street cleaner.  He was picking up the discarded bottles and food wrappers.  As he moved along he was singing loudly.  It was the theme tune to “Neighbours”. He wasn’t humming quietly.  He wasn’t embarrassed and he wasn’t all that tuneful – he just sang. 
Earlier this week someone resurrected the staff choir! It was reincarnated as just a singing group rather than a choir.  In the previous life they used to hand out music sheets and aim to hit the right notes at the right time and break out into harmonies.  I reckon that is why I stopped going.  I was very conscious that my voice was not really up to it.  I sing, but would not label myself a singer.  It has to be said that the more I sung the better the voice became – but I felt very much the worst singer in the choir!

Now we just have the words and belt out the melody. I suppose, once we get comfortable singing again the music sheets and the harmonies will show up.

One of the songs we sang was “Hallelujah” written by Leonard Cohen.  It is a song that comes with memories attached.  

We had seen the Shrek movie, the first one, and bought the soundtrack, and while we were peeling wallpaper off the wall in the spare bedroom it was constantly playing.  The wall paper came off in very small, very damp scraps and took a very long time.  Both the husband and I regretted not just painting, or papering over what was already up – but once you start these things you cannot stop until they are completed.  I seem to remember that the last strip of new paper went up on the wall five minutes before my sister was due to arrive and sleep in the room!

The other “Hallelujah” memory was more recent.  Our fellowship supports a small Sunday evening meeting for people who haven’t much experience of mainstream church environments.  They are exploring what faith in God means.  There is a meal and a very light-touch study of the scriptures. 
One Sunday evening another church in the city was hosting a café style music event.  A band played while people drank tea or coffee and chatted.  The songs were gentle background stuff on a Christian theme.  It was an excellent band with a very professional sound.  We took our small group along to give them a wider experience of what Christians were about.

Towards the end of the evening one of our ladies asked if she could make request.  She asked them to sing “Hallelujah”.  

The request didn’t go down well.  I admit that although I belted out the words as I picked off the wall paper in the spare bedroom, I hadn’t really paid that much attention the lyrics.  I joined in the hallelujahs enthusiastically and knew that David had a mention in the song somewhere.  In whispered tones, it was explained to the woman that it wasn’t an appropriate song.  It was all about sex.  Our lady didn’t quite storm off but she muttered.  Our “ladies” muttered and continued muttering in the car on the way home.  My husband also muttered – well, he didn’t really mutter at all, but he did wait until we had dropped off the ladies before he gave his view about the song.  He insisted it wasn’t all about sex.  There was a deeper level to the song.

I am not quite sure how comfortable I felt singing the song the other day.  Was it really about sex?  Should I be singing it if it was? 

The comments from a website "Song Meanings" make for interesting reading.

I might not be overly impressed with the songs we end up singing but I am impressed with the fact that I am singing!  I have always liked singing.  It seemed to me to be the perfect antidote to grumbling and complaining.  I didn’t quite realise just how good singing is.

The health benefits of singing are both physical and psychological. Singing has physical benefits because it is an aerobic activity that increases oxygenation in the blood stream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body, even when sitting. Singing has psychological benefits because of its normally positive effect in reducing stress levels through the action of the endocrine system which is linked to our sense of emotional well-being. Psychological benefits are also evident when people sing together as well as alone because of the increased sense of community, belonging and shared endeavour,” says Professor Graham Welch, Chair of Music Education at the Institute of Education, University of London.

Keep singing!

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