SINGING AUDITORIUMS

by

Sue Rueckwald, Kitchener  - formerly Sue McTavish  SABCI  1966-1971

 

 

Ask any pre-1970 Spartan alumnus what he or she remembers most about their days at Beck, and to a person they will agree that the singing auditoriums lead by Mr. Fagan in the sixties and previously by Mr Chapman would top the list.   Picture a whole school-full of hormone infested teenagers willingly filing into an auditorium, finding their designated seats every Friday morning and settling in for a rousing sing-song of old war songs and ‘meaningful’ popular tunes with their teachers - and enjoying it!  Although almost impossible to imagine unless you were there, these Friday assemblies were the soul of this great school.

 The Singing Auditorium was a glorious way to end the busy school week. Two separate Auditoriums were held to accommodate all of the students. The periods were shorted, the teaching was concise, the learning was swift ... the anticipation ran high. Although the auditorium seated a mere few hundred, it seemed as though we were not alone.  The mural people who graced the auditorium walls held us in their watchful eyes - eyes that locked away the secrets of past generations and somehow held us accountable by their traditions.

 With spirits united, we respectfully rose en masse while the platform party took their places on the stage.  Because the weekly Tuesday assembly, rife with announcements, school business and speakers, had already come and gone, in very short order we got to the business at hand which was to raise the roof with our voices, some four hundred strong.  Our very capable and enthusiastic song leader would lead us in a rousing rendition of ‘Give me Some Men Who are Stout hearted Men...’, then with hearts all a-flutter, those of us with more romantic inclinations and a whole lot of imagination, dreamed of being underneath the lantern right alongside ‘Lily Marlene’ or spooning by the ‘light of the silvery moon’.  Before bidding a fond ‘farewell to Nova Scotia’,  we trotted around the globe on the strains of ‘O Danny Boy’ and ‘O-O-Oklahoma’, where we could almost taste the corn as high as your eye!  Imagine four hundred pairs of penny loafers ‘waltzing with Matilda’ or ‘climbing every mountain’ with Julie Andrews. No Singing Auditorium was complete without a tune that would make you think.  We were often left wondering where indeed had ‘all the flowers gone??’ (this was long before acid rain).  And what good advice it was to hear that ‘when you walk through a storm’ just ‘hold your head up high’... Then, just when we felt our emotions could be stretched no more we stood ‘shoulder to shoulder and bolder and bolder’ asked our friends in the auditorium seats on either side of us that pointed question, “Do Your Ears Hang Low??”

 Having wrung our hearts out in four part harmony, we made our way back to class with vague assurances that we would ‘n-e-ver walk a-lo-o-o-ne’ and each a little dewy-eyed except for Miss Lewis, who was openly weeping.   While the Sir Adam Beck family had come a little closer in spirit, it was at the same time oblivious to the hard fact that one day our children would say, “What a corny thing to do at a school assembly!”

 Alas, an ill wind would blow across the land in the late sixties snuffing out innocence and in due time, Singing Auditoriums at Sir Adam Beck.  Caught in a counter-culture that saw young people protesting against anything and everything that smacked of authority,  the longstanding musical tradition at Beck was fair game for students bent on changing the world.  And change it they did - first to student-run singing auditoriums that seemed uncomfortably forced and then finally, to the cancellation of these great gatherings.  As the last bitter notes were sung on a Friday morning in 1970, my most poignant memory is that of a very distraught Miss Lewis who could be counted on to weep after most Singing Auditoriums, crying very different tears of pain and loss as the Singing Auditorium joined the ranks of things we used to do at Beck.

 

 

Copyright 10 June 2004  Sue Rueckwald, Kitchener  - formerly Sue McTavish  SABCI  1966-1971

 

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