We have been having a bit of trouble with the Springtime.
Not as in Springtime the Season which has been truly wonderful
in this Year of Grace 2014, has it not? The daffodils, the bluebells, the tamarisk tree, the lilies, the foxgloves - each, in their turn has been splendiferous. Or words to that effect. No, we have been having trouble with the tune and words of “I
Know It Is Springtime”, which is one of the songs that our choir conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, is insistent we must sing at our concert this afternoon.
you have never heard of “I Know It Is Springtime”, then it summons up a rural idyll. There are lambs frolicking on the hillside, pale primroses in the woods, and daisies “twinkling like stars at our feet.” I am sure you get the
picture - and that’s only verse one. Verse two has the cuckoo calling and little birds singing, with a piano accompaniment echoing the cuckoo’s call. Incidentally, has anyone heard a cuckoo this year? Where have they all gone?
The problem with the song isn’t the words, or even the tune (once we have mastered a few tricky phrases.) No, the problem is that the Redoubtable Muriel is convinced
that we are capable of singing a special arrangement of the song which involves the women starting off the singing with the men chiming in after two words. However many times we practise it, it always sounds wrong, plain wrong. Like the lambs have
stopped frolicking and the daisies are twinkling no longer. Still the Redoubtable Muriel forces us through our paces, determined that we will get it right, if it kills us.
Because Mr B and I were in Wales, we weren’t able to attend the final choir session before today’s concert. I telephone our pianist, Morag, for an update on the programme. Are we still singing all the songs on our playlist? Have some songs
been divided up between the men and the women? Are we still performing “Springtime”? Morag tells me, triumphantly, that she has had a telephone conversation with the Redoubtable Muriel and persuaded her that we should sing Springtime in unison,
rather than the special arrangement. I wish I had been able to eavesdrop on that conversation....
As regular readers may recall, when we perform in concert we
wear red shirts and black trousers or skirts so that we look like a “proper” choir. It’s not exactly a uniform because everyone’s shirts or blouses are slightly different shades of red – but that doesn’t seem to matter,
somehow. We carry our red folders containing all our music proudly before us. I think we all look properly smart. The Redoubtable Muriel always seems to soften when she sees us all dressed up; I think she is rather proud of us really, even if we can’t
quite master the intricacies of “I Know It is Springtime.”
The church hall where we are singing is very full. The grand piano is crammed into
a corner which means that Morag and Muriel have some difficulty seeing each other; we all have to close up a bit when we stand up to sing so that there is just enough space for a bit of eye contact between pianist and conductor. My friend Sue and I find ourselves
in the front row of the alto section which is pretty alarming. Usually we like to skulk in the second row back where we can share a giggle about songs like “My Love’s An Arbutus.” I’m not at all sure I would be enchanted should Mr B
start comparing me to an arbutus. Though it’s not likely he would, bearing in mind that neither of us have ever actually seen an arbutus, lovely or not. Indeed, before we started learning the song, we had never even heard of one.
There is one really scary moment, mid-concert, when the men forget that they are supposed to be singing the first line of the second verse of “Li’l Liza Jane” all
on their own. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I didn’t know that it was supposed to be men only – so I find myself performing an unintentional solo. It is only one line, thank goodness. I think I got away with it...
We finish in rousing fashion with three songs from My Fair Lady – “Wouldn’t it be Loverly?” (complete with dropped aitches and our very best cockney accent); “The Ascot
Gavotte” (employing our poshest voices); and a rip-roaring “Get me to the Church On Time.” The audience’s applause is really most generous.
sweet lady tells me we made her cry more than once. I can only hope that this was because of the moving lyrics of “We’ll Gather Lilacs” not because we were totally awful. I am too afraid to ask the question but follow the sweet lady into an
adjacent room, where tea and biscuits have been set out before us, on blue-checked table-cloths covering tables decorated with vases of springtime flowers.
By the way, I have a confession
to make. Out a few weeks ago with my Bird-Watching Group, we found ourselves in an idyllic rural setting, complete with gambolling lambs and all the rest. Right down to the daisies, which really, truly were twinkling like stars at my feet.
I just knew it was Springtime.