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Seeking the best voice on Broadway

High-spirited MLAs at open house

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The Speaker of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly was ready to go. The choir? Maybe not so much.

In a couple of hours, Daryl Reid would be leading the MLA choir on the steps of the grand staircase at the legislature Saturday afternoon despite the fact none of them had practised any of the three songs they were scheduled to sing.

Strangely, singing in the MLA choir -- the headline act in the annual holiday open house on Broadway -- was not subject to mandatory participation. That should have narrowed the field for the purpose of this exercise, but it didn't. Trying to locate the best singing voice in the assembly was tricky.

"I'd rather not single anyone out," Reid said. "I'll let you make that determination after we're done."

That's right -- the Speaker wouldn't speak.

'I am not going to defend my singing voice. What you've heard is that I'm shameless and will sing loudy. It's not that I sing well, I sing with conviction'

-- Health Minister Erin Selby on rumours she is an outstanding vocalist among MLAs

Without a trace of sarcasm in his voice, Reid indicated there were a few "very, very strong voices" in the assembly -- quickly adding he meant singing voices and not just those who love to hear themselves talk during a session.

"There are three or four (MLAs) who sing in their church choir, too, so those are the ones who really lead us," Reid said. "They've actually taught me a few lessons, too. After my first year, they noticed that I did not have the best skills to be a choir conductor. They were very polite, though."

The search for the best singing voice in the legislative assembly certainly doesn't end at Kevin Chief's office. The children and youth opportunities minister laughed when asked how prominent his role would be in the choir or if he had a surprise solo in store for the audience Saturday.

"I'm a terrible singer," he said. "I'll probably try to lip-synch through it. I try to say I'm the reverb guy -- I just try to echo off after the others."

Chief looked to be having a grand time during Saturday's open house. His office was full of people, perhaps a sign that his face-to-face work in the Point Douglas area was starting to make a difference in terms of engagement and approachability.

On a serious note, this will be the first Christmas for Chief since he was brutally attacked by four people on the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge while out for a run last February. He sustained a broken nose, two chipped teeth and various bruises in the assault, but found a new perspective in the healing afterwards. He spoke to what that experience means now, at a time when thoughts of family and loved ones bubble to the surface.

"If I can connect anything with this time of year and what happened on the bridge, it is this: When I think about the amount of support I got after what happened on the bridge, I realize that we're more connected to one another through our vulnerabilities than we are through our personal strengths.

"What I see now through this time of year is something more than just one day. You understand how important it is to make Christmas not just about one day, but about the entire holiday season."

Back to the matter at hand: the best voice on Broadway.

Conversations around the open offices point to three MLAs. Unofficially, Health Minister Erin Selby (Southdale) and Jobs and Economy Minister Theresa Oswald (Seine River), along with Conservative MLA Cameron Friesen (Morden-Winkler) are the three people mentioned without hesitation.

Selby quickly downplayed her nomination, indicating her reputation is based not on talent but on a simple desire to sing when the mood strikes. Those are entirely different things, she notes.

"I am not going to defend my singing voice," she laughed. "What you've heard is that I'm shameless and will sing loudly. It's not that I sing well, I sing with conviction.

"I do not believe that anyone said that. Whoever told you that is a liar."

No comment.

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 8, 2013 A4

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