Our choir conductor, The Redoubtable Muriel, is in excellent form as we gather in the local community centre for the first meeting of our “Singing for Pleasure” choir since we broke up for the Summer.
She has obviously missed us as much as we have missed her.
Myra, who runs the choir, is struggling to deal with the flood of choir members, old and new, who are
queuing out of the door waiting to sign in and pay over their 50 pences for the privilege of an hour and a half of Tuneful Songs. On the table in front of her are a number of song sheets which we are invited to pick up. Mr B gets into trouble for trying to
pick up some extra sheets which aren’t to be given out yet. Myra doesn’t quite give him a slap but her tone is stinging enough. Mr B is unperturbed. He has known far worse than Myra’s scolding.
One of the “new” songs is “I Do Love to be Beside the Seaside” – one of my favourites, as regular readers know. However it turns out that I only actually know the chorus. You know the bit about
strolling along the prom, prom, prom, and brass bands and all that stuff of which seaside trips are made. It is fascinating, therefore to read the verse which accompanies its better-known chorus:
“Everyone delights to spend their summer’s holiday
Down beside the side of the silvery sea.
I’m no exception to the
rule, in fact if I’d had my way,
I’d reside by the side of the silvery sea.
But when you’re just the common or garden
Smith or Jones or Brown
At business up in town, you’ve got to settle down.
You save up all the money you can till summer comes around
Then away you go, to a spot you know,
Where the cockle shells are found.”
a “common or garden” Smith or Jones or Brown, I am lucky enough to live by the silvery sea. Though sometimes it’s a stormy grey, or a sea-weedy green. The sea has many, many faces and I love them all.
Muriel has us all up-standing for our vocal exercises. Our voices are instruments, she tells us, which we put away into storage at the end of last term. We must now retrieve them, re-tune them
and breathe new life into them. We clear our throats and try to breathe easy. Muriel takes us through our paces. We aren't too bad, all things considering.
readers may remember that a few weeks ago Mr B and I were fortunate enough to be invited along to a rehearsal / practice session by the world-famous Fron Male Voice Choir of which Mr B's brother is a member. While I would not dream of comparing our Singing
for Pleasure choir with the Mighty Fron, it was comforting to see that they went through much the same routine as we do each week - first the exercises, then being taken through each song in some detail to perfect the timing, the beat, the flow.
Our Muriel is a stickler for putting meaning into the songs we sing. We need always to think about the words we are singing, she lectures us. This is fine by me, till
we come to sing The Road to the Isles. I will quote the first few lines so that you can see what I mean: “A far croonin is pullin’ me away, As take I wi’ my cromack to the road....” What’s a “cromack” when it’s
at home, I pray. And there’s more: “The cool cresses I am thinkin’ o’ for pluck, And bracken for a wink on Mother’s knee.” If there’s a braw, bricht Scotsman (or woman) out there, perhaps you can help?
But how lovely it is to be back in the bosom of our choir. Music, truly is, something so very, very special.
That came home to me this afternoon when our cousin rang from Canada – his dear, funny, music-loving, piano-playing wife died a few weeks ago. At the end, her cruel illness meant she could neither walk nor talk –
but, miraculously, she could still play the piano. On the very day before she died she was in the chapel at the nursing home where she was cared for in the last weeks of her life, playing all the old hymns she knew and loved. As she played, more and more people
stopped by to listen and to join in singing the hymns. Though nobody knew it at the time, it was her final, special, virtuoso performance.
Thank you for the
music, Cousin Jacky. We will sing and play in memory of you.