It never crossed my mind on that rainy, August Saturday in 1967—our wedding day, as we stood on the threshold of our future together—that our golden anniversary would eventually arrive. And now, fifty years on, it has.
Symbolic occasions have never resonated loudly with me, for whatever reason. My wife and I have always celebrated family birthdays, of course, especially those of our children and grandchildren. Wedding anniversaries, however, have come and gone with very little fanfare—although not without a sense of gratitude for our good fortune.
But it occurred to us a while back that, when two strong, independent people are able to spend fifty years with each other, weathering the storms and cherishing the good times, it is no small feat. It is, in our case, a triumph of symbiosis over autonomy. And so, we resolved to celebrate this one.
Our wedding coincided with Canada’s 100th year as a nation; indeed, we joked that getting married was our centennial project. Now, as the country celebrates its sesquicentennial, we marvel that we have been married for fully a third of its existence.
For some time, we cast about for ideas as to how we might mark the momentous occasion. We consulted with friends who have already achieved the milestone, we spoke with our children, and we talked with each other, long into the night many times, searching for the perfect way to celebrate.
You’ll never guess what has come to be.
On the very anniversary date of our nuptials, my wife will be a member of the audience in a darkened theatre, while I, a lifelong singer of songs (but never publicly), will be sharing the stage with my comrades in a barbershop harmony chorus, sixty-five-men strong, for a night of music in Muskoka.
Had you asked me those fifty long years ago if I thought such a situation could ever come to be, I’d have regarded you as mad. Yet, there I shall be, one voice among many in the mighty Harbourtown Sound, singing my heart out.
This being Canada’s 150th birthday year, the programme will contain several songs of Canadiana, two of which you may hear now, should you choose. The first is Fare Thee Well, written by John Rankin of Nova Scotia—
The second, Hallelujah, is from Leonard Cohen, and one of our favourites to perform. It may be found at the end of this post.
Both songs will be sung in harmony with our hosts for the concert, the Muskoka Music Men, a local barbershop chorus. Our chorus will be singing several other songs, as well, including selections from Broadway, Motown, and the more traditional barbershop canon.
My wife and I did take an extended trip earlier in the spring, as part of our golden year, and we shall be together with our children and grandchildren for a special celebration later in the summer. So the concert is not a one-off commemoration of our special year, just one part of it.
Given my love for the music, I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to end the journey to fifty years, and begin the voyage to sixty years, our diamond anniversary. And for that prospect, I offer up, Hallelujah—