When I was young and our school put on a concert, or a show, or a play, I could always guarantee that my Mum and Dad would be there. Not only that, I knew for stone bonkers certain that they would arrive early
and sit themselves down in the very front row.
All through the performance, they would have their eyes fixed on me, even if I was in the back row of the chorus (my usual position.) And
I would cringe with embarrassment to see my Dad pointing me out to the person sitting next to him - and the couple in the row behind. And the people next to them. "That's my girl!" I could almost hear him say.
Many years later, I told a friend about my embarrassing parents. She put me right in an instant. "At least they came," she told me, witheringly, "Mine could never be bothered."
So today, dressed
to kill in our red shirts, and lining up with the rest of our choir for our Big Performance to the residents of the Queen Alexandra Home for Retired Ex-Service Personnel, I thought of my Dad. There was an elderly gent in a wheelchair, sitting in the front
row, who'd obviously arrived early in the Day Room where our concert was to be staged. He was sitting just where my Dad would have sat.
Well, we sang our hearts out. We did make a few mistakes
along the way but I think we covered them up pretty quickly. Except when we ground to a bit of a halt because we'd all forgotten whether the next verse of "We'll Gather Lilacs" was to be sung by the men or the women or, perchance, by us all.
And(though I wasn't going to mention it to Mr B) the men did come in just a teeny, weeny bit late with their lu-lus for the chorus of Sunrise, Sunset.
But these are minor niggles. We remembered, as we were Marching through Georgia, who was singing about gobbling turkeys (the men) and who was singing about sweet potatoes (the women.) We remembered when to lilt, when to sing loudly
and when to sing softly. We enunciated the words (for the most part) beautifully. You could hear every vowel and every consonant.
As appreciative audiences go, well, we couldn't have asked
for better. They sang along, they waved, they clapped and they cheered. Their reaction to "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" actually brought tears to my (English) eyes. We obviously hit at least some of the right notes...
You may remember me telling you that, for our finale, "When I'm 64", we had planned a special ending. We were going to sing the final line up to "When I'm Sixty.." then one of our number would shout out "70!" followed by
another calling out "80!", followed by a third yelling "90". It was all going to plan - till the gent I told you about in the front row called out in a wavery, but surprisingly clear, voice: "100!" It made our final "WOW!" sound even more impressive.
I had a chat to him afterwards. He was 103 and had served in Egypt in the Second World War, fighting in the Battle of Alamein. Just like my Dad.
there was a reason why he was sitting in the front row...