Our Choir is preparing for a concert we are giving in just a little over two weeks’ time. I think it is fair to say that all is not going swimmingly.
Our audience is made up of retired Service Men and Women now resident in the Queen Alexandra’s Home, known affectionately to locals here in Worthing as “Gifford House.” Mr B and I still have fond memories
of last year’s concert. It was the very first time we donned our choir “uniform” of red shirts and black skirts / trousers, our first experience of singing as a choir in public, our first visit to Gifford House, our first opportunity to chat
to some of the inspiring characters living there. Now it seems they want us back! Or did we invite ourselves, I wonder?
Our Conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel,
has put together a draft programme and we all grab copies of the A5 sheet from the Signing In Table and peruse it with a mixture of surprise, delight and consternation depending on how much we like, or dislike, the chosen songs. Me, well I am easy to please,
I like them all. Some more than others, inevitably, but I’m not about to argue with the Conductor’s Choice.
We will be beginning with a kind
of Round The World selection, starting in London rolling along with Old Father Thames, moving northwards to lament the faithlessness of Liverpool Lou, then swiftly on through Wonderful Copenhagen (that "friendly old girl of a town") and finishing up on a desert
island somewhere with the Coconut Calypso. Presumably our Conductor feels this will demonstrate how good we are at Geography, even if our singing doesn’t always pass muster.
The next section of the programme features songs from the musical Oliver so we will be singing Consider Yourself, As Long As He Needs Me (featuring one of the sopranos who can reach the high notes. No, it’s not me, but thank
you for your faith in me) and I’d Do Anything. In the latter, we make full use of the fact that we have a strong contingent of male singers so we divide up the question and answers: “Would you climb a hill? Anything! Wear a daffodil? Anything!
Leave me all your will? Anything! Even fight my Bill? What, fisticuffs?!” The Redoubtable Muriel says we sing this with conviction. This is high praise indeed.
There is a lot of discussion as to when the Ladies should sing alone, when it should be the Gents’ turn and where it would be best if we all sing in unison. Some of us have music already marked with “Ladies”, “Men”
and “All” from previous concerts but Muriel keeps changing her mind which means we have to do a lot of crossing out. The woman next to me kindly lends me her pencil, so that I can make the necessary amendments on my music but the pencil is
attached to a piece of string tied onto her music file, so I have to contort myself into an uncomfortable knot in order to scribble something totally illegible in my book. When I get home, Mr B will want me to transfer all the instructions into his file and
will be dismayed at the lack of clarity.
There are a fair number of quite elderly people in our choir, so the whole process of marking up our music is accompanied
by a great deal of confusion and repeated, sometimes querulous, questioning. My neighbour (not the one with the pencil on a string, the one on the other side) and I are convulsed in giggles. Muriel gives us A Look so we subside and pretend to be studying
our music with enormous fervour.
The final section of the programme – what you might call the Grand Finale – is made up of a series of heart-lifting
songs: Come to the Fair, Spread a Little Happiness, I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside and – for our triumphant finish – Sussex by the Sea. Oh, good old Sussex by the Sea!
Muriel is not sure about us singing Spread a Little Happiness. She thinks it might not be appropriate, given the circumstances in which our audience find themselves. I beg to differ: “Even when the darkest clouds are in
the sky, You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry – Just spread a little happiness as you go by – please try!” What’s wrong with that? Muriel packs up her music and says she will think about it and give us her verdict
On the way back to the car, I ask Mr B’s opinion.
think we should sing a bit of Chas and Dave,” he suggests, helpfully, and starts to hum “Rabbit, rabbit” under his breath.
I’ll leave it
to him to break it to Muriel...