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Bass or Baritone?

March 30th 2024

The sound of music has always been a comfort to me and I am saddened that our two sons have never had the pleasure of hearing a musical tune from a human voice or an instrument. It is said that the fetus can hear the mother’s comforting voice and takes pleasure when a lullaby is sung or music is played. A child born deaf has that soft comforting pleasure withheld from him or her and in the case of our two boys, have never, nor will they ever hear. I have carried that sadness for the past 63 years.

Born in the mid 30’s, I was brought up in the Baptist church and among many wonderful blessings, being born into a Christian God-fearing family of Baptists that loved to sing. Temple Baptist Church in the east end of Toronto was the Scott family church and my grandmother was the inspiration to the family to be at church most of the day on Sunday and on the front porch or in the English garden at their home the rest of the day. Sunday was set aside for church and family and it was the highlight of every week growing up.

Like in everyone’s life, time passed and once our little family was re-united in Brampton, Ontario, I was eleven years old and back in 1st Baptist church where my singing career began. I received a basic appreciation for music with piano lessons every week, I hated having to practice but Miss. Fullerton who lived in a large old family home, all alone, which really impressed me, patiently led me into singing lessons. I imagine it was obvious that I was never going to be a pianist but that .75 cents a week was still going to continue if she had her way.

I remember my first Wednesday night choir practice I would never have attended if it were not for my friend Jim Harmsworth.  His Aunt Reva, father and Uncle Norman were all very musical and they were the anchor of our church music program. I was placed next to Uncle Norm. (later to be Father-in-law) and was so nervous when Norm said in a rather harsh voice, you have to help and hold the music with me.  He must have known that I was not too happy as the music shook in my hands until he took it back. As my voice grew stronger and matured, I began to gain a sense of confidence and would train my voice by practicing with the very famous tenor, Mario Lanza. I also practiced with George Beverly Shea who was a bass-baritone, and Paul Robson. My range was quite wide but my comfort zone was as a bass-baritone. Some of my music was becoming almost Opera style and one piece “Consider and Hear  Me,” had five flats and was beyond the capability of some of my accompanists. I loved to lead the young people when we had our conventions and I had more than 200 beautiful voices to lead. I loved the religious music, the gospel music of Pat Boone, and singers like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Paul Anka were all an inspiration to me, even B/bop.  

I even had thoughts of making music my profession. This led me to visit a very talented soprano that was a schoolmate and a childhood friend of my, later-to-be wife. Perhaps Gwendolynn Little could give me some lessons to help develop my skills to a higher level.  Gwen gave me an interview and suggested that she was not able to advance me but her teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music in Toronto whose name was just “Vinci” would be more than happy to take me on as his student. I was thrilled to hear this but not the rest of the story.  By this time, I was out of school and earning $28.60 a week as a shoe salesman. Vinci charges $15.00 for a half-hour lesson. My professional singing career came to a crashing halt. Miss. Little went on to be a member of the Canadian Opera as one of their lead soloists. I also was thrilled to sing alongside Alexander Gray at the Kingsway Baptist Church choir. Alex was also a lead singer with the Canadian Opera.

The 1st. Baptist church in Sudbury was my next gig and after joining the choir along with my new wife Joan, I joined a quartet and was the bass. This gave me the opportunity to sing live on black and white TV in the early 60’s. Solo work as an amateur was always a thrill and as nervous as I was leading up to a performance, I did enjoy the work. I never refused to sing at funerals but it was by far the hardest performance one had to perform.  Singing to 2-300 people at a Sunday service on board a cruise ship or at a full house in the old theatre in Beaverton or to a full house of enthusiastic seniors in Florida, it was all a wonderful life. I sang in drag and black face when it was not frowned upon as it is now. I sang in the Amber caves in Poland and as a senior to other seniors in Senior homes in Niagara Falls. I never got the chance to sing at the old Opera House in Orillia, the acoustics were as expected when I got the opportunity to hit a few notes on the stage while giving a history tour of the building. The sound of a grand old Pipe organ in a centuries-old gothic church stirs the soul to come to tears. The deaf never hear such grand and beautiful music. We are promised that the music in Heaven will be much better and I will be happy to see my guys when they hear the Angels singing on high and hear the trumpets pronouncing God's greatness. What glory that will be.



Paul D. Scott                   

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