Cheery Song was composed by David Dick Slater (1862-1942). Dad was sixteen years old when he competed, with this piece, at the music festival in Moose Jaw and just tonight, sang it beginning to end for me, over Skype. I couldn’t believe it…beautiful tenor coming across the waves to me…a very light-feeling marching song. A good story ensued. First of all, Dad wanted to beat Danny Tait at competition and he did. Once this name came up, I googled it and found Daniel. He was born in 1933 and just passed, at the age of 80 in 2014.
Loving Husband, Proud Father and Grandfather, Gifted Performer, Dedicated Teacher, Dear Friend
Daniel Tait was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to Helen and Floyd Tait. His musical ability was apparent at an early age as he studied piano, violin, and voice. His talent soon led him to study in Toronto, London, England, and Siena, Italy. He became an Associate and Licentiate of the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto and became a Fellow of Trinity College of Music in London. Daniel shared his beautiful voice with the world as a member of the Canadian Opera Company, through his performances at the Stratford Festival and many concerts.
Daniel met the love of his life, Norma, at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music. They were married for 54 years and had three children together, Kevin (Karen), Lisa (Cameron), and David (Jenn). To spend more time with his family, Daniel turned his talents to teaching, and his students would say that this was where his true gifts lay. Through his private teaching and his position with the Toronto District School Board, he was an inspiration to everyone he taught. Long after they left his class, his students remembered him with fondness and delight. They knew that Mr. Tait could be a stern taskmaster, but that he genuinely cared for all of them. His combination of caring and humour was truly special. He retired from Winona Drive Public School in 1997 after many successful years taking his young performers to music festivals across North America and to Harrogate, England.
In his later years, Danny suffered from crippling arthritis. But despite living with considerable pain, he always had a ready smile. He loved to joke and he became a fixture at Spring Café where he went every day for lunch. In rain or snow, and in the horrendously cold weather we’ve been having, he always made the trek, and was richly rewarded with friendship and laughter.
The afternoon of the festival competition in Zion United Church, it turned out that my father enjoyed a very positive performance and ended up winning over Danny Tait. Now, as you read over his tribute piece, it would seem that Danny was a very good tenor, so that was an amazing accomplishment! May he rest in peace. That night, it was John E. Moors who won at festival and his prize was a 25.00 scholarship from the Men’s Club.
The thing is, as Dad was walking home from the competition, he said that he took the hill and turned toward the school where he found some friends playing football. It was his first time being suited up really nicely for a song competition, dark navy blazer, grey trouser, polished black shoes and a tie. Well, out in the field he went to play with his buds and is sure that a little more than an hour had passed when his sister, Ruth, came toward the field shouting that he had best get home!
Once home, Dad learned that because he had scored high and won a prize, he was to perform again in the evening. So, he needed some cleaning up after the impromptu football game, but over his Dad, Mom and him went and he performed Cheery Song again for an audience. Dad told me that sometimes when he’s out on his dog walks and feeling a bit down, he will often sing that little song and that makes me super happy.
I can’t find any of the early hymns by this composer on Youtube. The words were written by Jean Meredyth and the song published in 1916. According to my research, the song’s theme was based on World War I. Dad’s copy has seen its hay day, in fact, the last page looks as though a cup of coffee was spilled on it. The edges are taped with cellophane tape.
If you have any information on this song…or if you have a video link somewhere, please contact me. During this period of history, there was a collective effort to keep the spirits up and so you find a predominance of ‘cheery’ tunes coming from writers and composers. Here is a good example.