sing-alongs | November 06, 2012

Steven Page's TEDx Talk: The Human Voice, Embarrassing--and Profound

Last week, Steven Page ended his keynote at TEDx Toronto by leading the audience in a rousing sing-along. 1,200 voices—one of them was mine!—joined his, and achieved an impromptu harmony. “I believe in you,” he yelled out jokingly to those who hadn’t yet started singing. With that, the whole crowd bloomed to life. The talk ended, the day was over, and the audience rose to its feet. Page’s impressive feat of audience participation—always a gamble in a live setting—nicely illustrated the point of his talk: that the human voice is a personal, awkward, and often profound thing. It’s the only instrument that comes directly from the human body.

With his former band, The Barenaked Ladies, Steven Page quickly earned a reputation for his humorous between-song banter at concerts.  Standing on stage at the Sony Centre, for the fourth and biggest TEDx Toronto, Page talked about overcoming embarrassment, and learning to appreciate, love, and harness his unique voice. Comfortably pacing the stage, he talked in a self-deprecating way to us (we might as well have been in his living room). Late in the talk, he picked up an acoustic guitar and started to strum “Chorus Girl,” a favourite from his solo work. As he came to the end of each verse, he paused and looked up. He then started to explain the song’s construction—like a director’s DVD commentary, live on stage. As the song's ending drew near, the sing-along began: “Feel your voices together,” Page shouted, standing back from the mic. “Feel even the bad ones." He left us with this: "Don’t think about how it sounds—just think about how it feels. A little bit embarrassing but a tiny bit good, too.”