The quiet of the crowd

I recently attended a lunch at a downtown Toronto location, one of those events with a quick chicken plate followed by a speaker. All the usual niceties were observed including the rhythmic clapping to welcome the arrival of the head table.There also was an acknowledgement – that has become essential at any public gathering – of the specific indigenous nations who once lived on the site. We even had grace and toasted the Queen. How often do those latter elements feature in a program?

And then, a mezzo-soprano was introduced to sing O Canada. I joined in, as I always do. I knew the latest change to the words and was also able to press on in English even while the soloist belted out the French lines. Then I realized I was the only one singing at my table. I stopped singing momentarily and concluded that no one was singing as far as the ear could hear. I continued anyway, just another soloist, to the last “stand on guard.”

What is the matter with Canadians that we don’t sing our national anthem? To be sure, there aren’t many opportunities other than such luncheons and sporting events. Maybe they feel rusty and out of practice. I sing every chance I can get, but my poor efforts do not seem to rouse any nearby converts.

Wars have been fought, immigrant families welcomed, service clubs do good works, and candles are lit when there’s a tragedy. But are we so tight-assed we can’t even open our mouths to celebrate our nationhood in song? Shame on us.

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