Where have all our voices gone?
Updated: May 26
What is it about Australians and singing?
Why don’t we sing?
This was one of the questions that came to mind as a tram load of Lions supporters (I keep calling them poms but they’re not) unloaded their lungs in my ears on my way to Ethihad for Saturday’s Test. I was one of a handful sporting gold (actually yellow) and boy did we pay for it! Quite what the young Asian couple standing beside me made of the cacophony, God only knows.
When we finally alighted at Southern Cross the place was awash with red. All you could hear was the chant. “Lions, lions!” or rather “Lii-ons Lii-ons”.
I took refuge in a pub and, while still being outnumbered 100-1, could at least avoid the interminable singing/chanting. I had a pleasant chat to some Lions supporters one of whom, a very broad shouldered chap, told me how citing James Horwill for stomping was a joke and that he (the broad shouldered one) had not only stomped on heads but scratched, kicked and bitten anyone in his sight as well. I offered to pay for his beer, wished him luck and scurried back out into the night.
By now Lions supporters were coming from every direction and all of them seemed to be in full voice. I didn’t say “in tune”. That’s a patently a myth. The idea that everyone from the northern hemisphere sings beautifully is simply not true. Even someone with my tone deafness can tell that.
As I was buffeted along by this raging sea of red I was starting to tire of the chant. And the singing. It was all one way traffic. Fortunately I was joined by my rugby watching mate who had travelled down from Sydney and was in full voice. Together we chanted “Wall-a-bies, Wall-a-bies” at the top of our voices. The surging red sea seemed to take offence at this. They looked at us oddly, even threateningly. There was no parting. I prayed that Mr Broad Shoulders wasn’t in the vicinity. To demonstrate the breadth of our repertoire we launched into the national anthem but my mate only knew the first two lines so that petered out. Then we had a crack at “Waltzing Matilda” but that wasn’t much better. We were desperately trying to drum up some support, to mix it with the red sea, but none was forthcoming. Our fellow Wallaby supporters either looked at us bemusedly or tried to pretend we were figments of someone’s imagination. Not theirs.
It was pretty dispiriting. The “Lii-ons” were giving us a belting and we were taking it lying down.
Inside the stadium it was worse. Even though we were surrounded by yellow the tide didn’t turn in the way that I had hoped.
The “Lii-ons” chant dominated and we offered scant resistance.
Of course, on cue we all stood and did our best with the excruciating, embarrassing words of our national anthem but that was about it.
When we sat down we were strangely mute. Maybe being “girt by sea” has done something to our voices?
The “Lii-ons” weren’t girt by anything. They were going at it full tilt. They found their collective pitch and something magical happened. The red sea came together and gave us a spine tingling rendition of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”. This glorious outburst atoned for the sins of earlier in the night. It was magnificent.
I was hoping we could counter with something. Out on the field the Wallabies were giving it back but in the stands we were strangely submissive. Not a note.
Where have our voices gone I thought? How come we sing along at concerts but remain strangely mute at sporting events? Did our forefathers and mothers lose their voices as they crossed the equator? What’s going on here? We don’t have a problem singing along at concerts. We love joining in with Barnsey and the Boss.
Maybe it’s the songs? Maybe we need our own “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”? Maybe Kevin 2.0 can get the Oils back together to pen a few decent tunes to belt out at the rugby? Or even better Paul Kelly.
Or maybe it's the fact that during the convict era public singing was seen as subverting authority and therefore singing became an indoor activity? Maybe that's why we sing rock anthems in pubs after games?
One thing’s for certain the “Lii-ons” are killing us off the pitch and it’s high time we gave it back to them.
Especially on Saturday.