Our Choir Conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, has been having sleepless nights. It’s really not surprising.
are, all upstanding and being taken through our weekly vocal exercises (our voices being instruments, don’t you know, which require regular tuning according to Muriel). Up and down the scales we go, chanting mind-boggling phrases such as “Gaggling
Geese” and “Whispering Willows”, to test out whether we are singing on our vowels and pronouncing all our consonants. Then Muriel announces that, for her next trick, we have a phrase she apparently thought of in bed last night. This turns
out to be “Extraordinary Encyclopaedias”.
“No wonder you can’t sleep at night, Muriel!” comes a sorrowful voice from somewhere among
the sopranos. Cue much laughter.
We are a merry band at Choir this week, possibly because after we have finished singing we are off to the local college to enjoy
a post-Christmas Lunch. At the college we will be cooked for and served by the catering students. We shall be kind to them, as we always are.
however, we must sing. The Men’s Section are even more unruly than usual but Muriel regards them like a Mother Hen clucking over her errant chicks. She definitely has a soft spot for the fellas. We are singing Widdecombe Fair and six of the men
have been give a part to play – as in, Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davey, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawke, Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and All. Mr B insists on playing the part of Harry Hawke or, as he likes to pronounce it in his best yokel
voice: ‘Arry ‘Awke”. Every time he bellows out ‘Arry’s name, the whole choir is convulsed with the giggles. It occurs to me that Mr B’s talents are wasted here at the seaside and that he could doubtless find gainful employment
as a Country Yokel somewhere in Deepest, Darkest Somerset.
When we come to the verse about Tom Pearce’s old mare taking sick and dying, ‘Arry ‘Awke
and Co sob their names most plaintively. My sides are aching so much from laughing that I can hardly manage to join in the final verse though it is worth it: “And all the night long he heard skirling and groans – from Tom Pearce’s old mare
in her rattling bones.” You have never heard such rattling and groaning. I’m sure we were pretty good at skirling, too, though as none of us know what it means you will have to take this on trust.
We sing “My Grandfather’s Clock”- all four verses. I only knew the first verse before today but I love the lines in the second verse that go: “And it struck twenty-four when he entered the door / With
a blooming and beautiful bride.” Muriel and I have this in common: we both think the words of a song are as important as the music. Muriel, however, is not convinced by the lyrics of any song written after about 1955 whereas I am somewhat more open to
the World of Modern Music. Well, up to a point...
Next we sing Moon River and have exactly the same inconclusive discussion about exactly what is meant by “my
Huckleberry friend” as we have every time we sing this song. Muriel thinks we sing this song rather well, and nods approvingly. All that practice with the Extraordinary Encyclopaedias has clearly paid off.
Forty-one of us sit down for lunch in the college Restaurant. We are served by a sweet lass who looks about twelve years old. We ask her to explain what “duxelles” are and she responds,
convincingly, that they are a kind of roast potato. When I get home I google it to discover that duxelles are actually a finely chopped mixture of mushrooms or mushroom stems, onions, shallots and herbs sautéed in butter, and reduced to a paste. That
makes a lot more sense.
It’s all about the way you say it, isn’t it? If you sound convincing enough, people will tend to believe you. ‘Arry
‘Awke knew that.
As, presumably, did Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all...