A Gymnasium Full of Young Students Pays a Moving Tribute to Gord Downie

Many Canadians began today with tears in their eyes.

That’s because the first thing they watched was a goose bump-inducing video. It is of a large group of Ontario elementary school students singing the song that defined the summer of 1996: The Tragically Hip’s “Ahead by a Century.”

Like many songs from the iconic Canadian band, “Ahead by a Century,” with its resonating line of “no dress rehearsal, this is our life,” transports many of us back to a simpler time of first loves, wonder and coming-of-age.

I have said it before, there are many reasons that the Tragically Hip is one of the most important, inspiring and influential Canadian bands of all time. But the most inspiring (and the most tear-jerking) is the fact that frontman Gord Downie is embarking on a final tour after a brain cancer diagnosis.

Image: Michael Hurcomb/Corbis/Getty Images

Image: Michael Hurcomb/Corbis/Getty Images

As the tribute covers have poured in, “Ahead by a Century” is seen in a whole new light when sung by the gymnasium full of children, many of whom’s parents probably still play “The Hip” in the car while driving them to school.

As Maclean’s reports, Ian Jack – a choir director at Newcastle Public School in Newcastle, Ont. – has led his choir in songs by R.E.M., Joni Mitchell, Sloan, Pharrell Williams and Janelle Monae.

At the news of Downie’s diagnosis in May, he encouraged the school to learn and perform “Ahead by a Century” before classes let out.

Like many of us, Jack has a personal attachment to the Tragically Hip – though his may go a little deeper. As reported by MacLean’s, Downie actually wrote the forward in the 2001 book, Have Not Been the Same, a book on Canadian music that Jack co-wrote.

The performance was recorded on June 20. Check it out for yourself: