Everything Happens to Me



The Dark Road (Uxbridge Cosmos Feb. 2017) 

It is nighttime. Not sure how late. Feels like three in the morning. Could be ten p.m. because I’m only seven years old. My big sister is next to me in our family car and we’re separated by our pillows, teddies, maybe a bag or a box or two. She’s asleep. Mom is in front of me in the passenger’s seat. She nodded off about an hour ago. Dad is driving. Silent. I don’t recall what’s on the radio. The radio is always on in our house; CBC, then later CJRT as well. News, Oscar Peterson and Mozart. We’re on a long…

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Songwriting and My Blabbery Mouth (Uxbride Cosmos Feb. 2016) 

A few years ago I got a part in a new translation of an old play. A young Canadian director had collaborated with the granddaughter of Bertolt Brecht and re-translated the tragic German play, Woyzeck. In casting, the director saw that I was a jazz singer and assumed that I could write music. 
  
“Hey, I was thinking we could have some original music in the show. You write, don’t you?” 
My brain gaffawed, “Write?! HAHAHAHAhaaaHAhahaha! No. I have never written a song in my LIFE!” 
But my mouth said, “Yes. Yes I…

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A Very Bargain Bin Jazz Christmas (Uxbridge Cosmos Dec. 2015) 

Everything I know about jazz singing I learned from a bargain bin Christmas tape. 
  
Actually, now that I’ve written that and now that it’s published in print, I should probably amend that, as I have learned a lot about jazz from the musicians I’m so ridiculously lucky to work with… as well as the teachers and professionals that have offered me advice and guidance over the last few years. 
  
Okay, so, ALMOST everything I know about jazz singing… and that’s still not a lot… I learned from a bargain bin…

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Nose Jobs and Face Snobs (Uxbridge Cosmos Nov. 2015) 

Big schnozz. The word bounced around in my head from ear to ear. Schnozz. How do I even spell that? Is it German? What does it have to do with me? Was it even directed at me? No… Maybe? 
  
These were honest questions I asked myself when, as a schoolgirl, a sensitive young dumdum jokingly guffawed with his equally empathetic d-bag buddies in reference to a very prominent feature on my face, over which I had no control. 
  
Once I determined to what and whom they were referring and that it was a sort of…

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W.W.J.A.D. – What Would Jane Austen Do? (Uxbridge Cosmos May 2015) 

Sigh… I just finished watching the last episode of “The Paradise,” Season two. It’s a British period drama about the inner workings and excitements of a Victorian department store. So, here’s the part, in my affectionate description of these types of shows, where my long-suffering husband likely tunes me out, replacing my yammering voice with the soothing sounds of nature in his head. 
  
“There’s a girl named Denise and she’s, um, Scottish?... but not that hard Glaswegian Scottish, just sort of soft… and…

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Fancy Beards and Fancy Coffee (Uxbridge Cosmos Jan. 2015) 

I’m getting old. It’s official. I apologize for that statement, as I know that some of you will be thinking, “I remember eleven-year-old Whitney playing “Fagin” in Oliver! at Uxbridge Public School…So, how old does that make ME?” Listen, once we’re past our ridiculous 20s I think, we’re all entitled to feel a little old sometimes. I have two young children. I’ve earned at least a tiny share of smug-old-person scowling and self-righteousness. Currently, there is a growing population of 20-something hipsters…Read more

Let's All Hate Toronto (Uxbridge Cosmos Sept. 2014) 

*Please note: The following piece was written before I learned of Rob Ford's cancer diagnosis. Though I disagree with the man's politics, I do not wish this terrible illness on anyone and wish him luck and good health, as well as strength and love to his long-suffering family.

Hi, I'm Whitney Ross-Barris and I'm from Toronto. Yes… (sigh) the city with the crack-smoking mayor. THAT Toronto. Yes, friends, the “Big Smoke,” the “T-dot." Well, I may not have been born in Ye Olde Towne of York, but after a number…Read more

When Haters Hate: Double Stroller Edition (Uxbridge Cosmos Feb. 2014) 

A great imposing shadow falls across Queen Street. Small dogs cower their tiny Aran knit sweaters and scurry into alcoves and odorous bus shelters. Bearded bikers and boozy bottle-drivers turn their heads and stand their ground mid-sidewalk. And here I come, my side-by-side double stroller full of children trundling down the steps of my house and out into public space. 

Yes, I am aware that you hate me. Join the rest of the world. Some folks scowl and comment under their breath, “why would anyone buy a…Read more

Not My Favourite Things (Uxbridge Cosmos Jan. 2014) 

Over the holidays, I was reminded of something that displeases me. Something I could never really put my finger on, something I could never admit is bothersome to me, because of its part in something near-sacred to so many in this world. No, that displeasure was not caused by a family dispute over which elementary school-made angel to use atop the tree, nor was it the horrifying, cheer-crushing experience of shopping at Mastermind the week before Christmas, with two young children on the brink of naptime…Read more

This is Why I Sing (Uxbridge Cosmos Sept. 2013) 

If you look at my business card, you'll read that I list myself as a “vocalist” (yes, we have business cards too.) Though you may roll your eyes or snicker at my possibly pretentious use of the word “vocalist” as my vocation, I'd like you to know that I use the term, because it truly describes not only what I do, but who I am. Allow me to elaborate.

Though I've always sung - to myself, to my teddy and to My Little Ponies, in mimicry of my big sister and later on in choirs and other vocal ensembles at school…Read more

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