What a truly glorious Autumn day!
I walked to choir, kicking at the carpet of red, gold, orange and brown leaves underneath my feet and thought about my sister Maggie.
It's her birthday in three days time: when she was a littl'un, our parents always said she would be able to tell it was nearly her birthday when she could walk along kicking up the Autumn leaves. Similarly, they used to tell me that when the first roses appeared
they were heralding my birthday.
As usual, I'd parked the car quite a long way from the Heene community centre, in the interests of Easy Parking. There's no way I will park in the car park at the centre where
the spaces are narrow in the extreme. Besides, it's a real pleasure walking in the sunshine and practising my vocal exercises, all the better to sing, don't you know?
Along with collecting our fifty pence
pieces, our convenor, Myra, is handing out the sheets of music she has photo-copied for all those who last week said they were missing some. As always, not everyone remembers what they asked for. "Did you put me down for the Young Lovers?" asks Eric, from
his seat in the corner. This innocent question provokes much whooping from the rest of the Men's Section, presumably on the basis that it is a while since Eric has been a Young Lover. If ever - though personally I think he should be given the benefit of the
"What about I Like To Be In America"? Myra calls out. "Not anymore!" several people respond quickly. There is much wry laughter. You can tell we have all been following events Across The Pond.
It's Armistice Day so our conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, is keen that we should sing some appropriate songs. We have also been informed that at precisely 11 a.m. a bell will be rung by the Centre Manager to signal
that all users of the community centre, including us, should fall quiet for the Two Minute Silence. In terms of appropriateness, I am not sure where "My Grandfather's Clock" fits in but I am not complaining because I like that song. I particularly like the
way Terry, who sits in the opposite corner from Eric, makes cuckoo noises during the choruses. This accompaniment is not written into the score but Muriel humours him. I think, like me, she feels it adds a Certain Something to our singing. She rewards Our
Tel by announcing that our next rendition will be "Lilli Marlene" which everybody knows is Terry's favourite. When my friend Sybille was a member of the choir, she used to sing a very beautiful solo in German which reminded us all that this was a song which
soldiers on all sides took as their own.
At five minutes to eleven, Muriel announces that we will sing "Song of Peace." Perfect! we all chorus. Unfortunately it takes a good few minutes for everyone to ask
their neighbour on what page we will find this in our music files and then to flick through the pages noisily to find the right one, and then to help someone sitting in the row behind (or the row in front) to find the right page because they weren't listening
when the page number was announced first time around.
As a result we were only half way through the second verse when the bell rang, bringing the Cente Manager to the door to remind us, sternly, to hush. We
couldn't even explain properly because we couldn't break the silence.
Poor Muriel! She had it all planned out and we failed her. As I said later, in the café with the rest of the members of the Bacon
Bap Brigade, we should have sung the first verse, then taken part in the Silence, then sung the second verse. That's my trouble - Always Right, But Only After The Event.
The second verse of "Song of Peace"
(also known as Finlandia) is a timely reminder that we are not the only ones who love the country of their birth. It goes like this:
My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover, leaf and pine;
But other lands have sunlight, too, and clover
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations
A song of peace, for their land and for mine.
Lest we forget.