These days, if I listen carefully when I arrive at Matthews Hall most mornings, I can hear the song of a single male cardinal. He is often perched high in the spruce tree on the front lawn or sometimes – if I am very lucky – in the shrubs right outside my office window. Ever since I have been little, the cardinal has been my favourite bird.
There are many legends and lore associated with this handsome red guy. In some First Nations stories, the “red bird” is associated with inner guidance, hope and good luck. Others believe that a visit from a cardinal is a sign from the spiritual realm, akin to a message from a deceased loved one. Whatever the case, there is no denying that his allure is powerful. He always makes you stop, look and listen.
He is easily identified by his scarlet plumage, but also by his distinct songs, which are many and varied. Always on pitch, rhythmic, and cheery, you will never hear him when he isn’t happy to be alive and happy to be singing! Of all the northern songbirds, he remains my favourite, not because of his fancy dress, superhero mask and chic haircut (!), but because he loves to sing.
I also love that about kids. For the most part, they love to sing, too! The famous composer, Richard Strauss, believed that the human voice was the most beautiful instrument of all, but the most difficult to play. If that is true, isn’t it wonderful that at Matthews Hall our children can develop and share this great talent? In vocal music classes, school productions, festivals, assemblies, and concerts, each student has the opportunity to develop this most unique instrument.
Last weekend, we were pleased to send a group of twenty-four students to the Conference of Independent Schools Music Festival (CISMF) in Toronto. Along with several hundred peers from member schools, they attended rehearsals to prepare for their two-hour concert at Roy Thomson Hall on Sunday afternoon. Lower School, Middle School and High School musicians from across the province worked together with their teachers to prepare an outstanding program of contemporary, classical, folk and popular music that did not disappoint. I had the privilege of attending the concert and thoroughly enjoyed the vocal enthusiasm and contributions of our students.
On a smaller scale, we shared some of our own music at our Spring Concert this week. Whether instrumental, vocal or kinesthetic (…think rhythmic gymnastics, along with the choristers who really feel the music!), it was a pleasure to support the students and their teachers who work hard to be able to share their music with us. We will have more opportunities to appreciate their growth as musicians at our spring production of Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) on May 9th, at an instrumental music assembly on May 15th , and then finally at our Closing Exercises on June 14th.
I hope, like me, you never tire of hearing students perform and share their talents. The influential Hungarian musician and composer, Zoltán Kodály, believed that “the teaching of singing in schools” was crucial to laying the foundation for intellectual and cultural understanding. At Matthews Hall, we happen to agree.
Not everyone will become a virtuoso like Mr. Cardinal. But, with joy, effort, and hard work, the training and development of even a single voice can make a big difference in the musical score of life.
Thank you to our dedicated music faculty and teachers, who share their passion for music with our children!
Ric Anderson, Head of School