[To listen to an audio version of this blog, please click here: http://bit.ly/2vXd2X8]
Ellie hears her husband's feet on the stairs. He has come in from work, scooped up the cat and gone straight to shower and shave before he even greets her with a kiss. He wants to wash his job away before he comes to her. He wants to greet her as the man he is, instead of the man he has to be at work.
But he is happy: he is singing. Tonight, from The Mikado. "Defer, defer to the Lord High Executioner," he sings to the ragged-eared bundle in his arms. Ellie doesn't think Mundungus defers to anyone. He is a cat and thinks everyone should defer to him.
It's not always Gilbert and Sullivan. Sometimes Jeremy sings songs from the musicals, sometimes rousing hymns, but always something with a strong tune; something he can get his fine baritone behind.
When he is unhappy, he is silent, and then Ellie is unhappy too, because a happy marriage is only as happy as the unhappiest partner.
You won't meet Jeremy and Ellie in real life: they are characters in one of my novels, but Jeremy's habit of singing when he is happy comes from a school friend of my daughter. Peter changed schools in his fourth year. His mother said that she had not realised how miserable he had been until he began to sing again. She had not realised that his music had stopped.
If we sing when we are happy, then can we make ourselves happy by singing?
At a recent meeting of my bi-polar support group, we discussed ways of coping, of lifting our spirits when depressed. Singing came up several times. I like the discipline of church choral music, my neighbour likes singing with the rock choir. The leader of our group likes singing along to eighties pop music.
At the funeral of my favourite aunt last week, we sang to music supplied by guitars and drums. The hymns, although traditional, were played in a way that made your feet tap and your body sway and, if you are of the Pentecostal tradition, wave your hands in the air. (I am an Anglican: my hands stayed firmly anchored to the service sheet!) Afterwards, my cousin asked me if I had enjoyed the hymns.
"Very much," I replied.
"We thought we'd like some hymns that, even if you couldn't sing, you could shout along," she said. "Mum couldn't sing a note, but she did rather like to shout!"
That funeral was not sad, but a joyous celebration of a life well lived.
Singing doesn't work for me when I am sunk into the deepest depression, swallowed whole by the dirty grey Leviathan, but it does cheer me up when I am feeling glum. Even if I start with something gentle, like Abide with Me, I can gradually work up to Vivaldi's Gloria. And sometimes, my latest rock favourite, Whatever it Takes, by Imagine Dragons.
So, what do you sing along to, when you do?
A Moodscope member.
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