Monday, 1 March 2010

I know, I know...

However I cannot but post on the following subject. Mr (yes, dear reader) Stanley Vann, erstwile organist of Pizzaborough Cathedral, coItalicmposer, conductor, choir-trainer and church musician par excellence has just celebrated his 100th birthday. He will, no doubt, have received some form of congratulatory communication from 'Her Majesty'. (Probably a text-message or a tweet or something similar, but no matter.) What he will not have received, but so richly deserves, is a Knighthood.

Now let me be quite clear: I am not one to advocate the bestowing of gongs on those for whom achievement seems to be synonymous with longevity. There is no especial merit in avoiding the inevitable shuffling off for longer than your neighbour. But Mr (oh dear) Vann has achieved so much in his century, far more in fact that all the obsequieous, toadying boobies in Whitehall for whom a Knighthood seems to be the equivilent of the long-service carriage clock. And he has achieved a great deal more than certain foul-mouthing, masticating, cheque-book wielding, referee-abusing managers of Association Football clubs whose enoblement has so debased the currency of our British Honours.

So why no public recognition? Is it that Mr (ooooh) Vann laboured for so long in the unfashionable habitations of the East Midlands? (I refuse to call it Cambridgeshire; Peterburger is not and never has been in Cambridgeshire; it is part of Northamptonshire. One simply cannot go around shoving cathedral cities into neighbouring counties on a whim. Mind you, one shouldn't go around re-naming cathedral cities either, but they renamed the rather splendid Gildenburgh... But that's another matter.)

So let us join forces and wish Mr (how much longer?) Stanley Vann if not many, then at least a few more happy returns of the day. (One has to be realistic in such matters.) And let us agitate as a matter of urgency for the great man's long overdue recognition.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Hello again!

Oh, I know I know. I have been so neglectful of late. There are, of course, a thousand excuses but I shall spare you every one of them. Suffice to say that yesterday our choristers were 'read out' (a strange ecclesiastical term meaning that the choir is no longer required until September) and I therefore have a Sunday off. Imagine that! A Sunday without some darned 9.30 Eucharist, 11.30 Mattins and 3.30 Choral Evensong. Don't get me wrong. I love my work, at least some of the time. But one can have too much 'Cathedral' (especially the bloody clergy - don't they realise how well off they are? There are parishes out there, Mr Sub-Dean, if you don't like what's on offer here!).

But I digress. As usual. No. My purpose in writing today (for the first time in a while) is merely to inform you of the anniversary of one of my favourite composers, George Sainton Kaye Butterworth, MC, born on the this day in 1885. If you have a recording of any of his music, put it on the gramophone today. And as you listen, reflect for a moment on 'what might have been' had Butterworth lived to fulfill his undoubted potential.

He was killed by a sniper's bullet on August 5th 1916. RIP.

Monday, 11 May 2009

To blog, or not to blog...

... that is the question.

Never mind the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, any fortune wouldn't come amiss. When I began my foray into all things blog (at the behest of a cheeky young choral-scholar) I did so, I am rather shamefaced to admit, in the hope of gaining some form of pecuniary advantage. Suffice to say, this has not been the case. No extra pupils, no solo bookings, no multi-million pound book deal or advertising revenue. Nothing. Not a sausage.

Of course, having such a means of venting one's spleen does have some advantages. Unfortunately, none of them are financial. My singing duties here at Wilchester benefit from a modest stipend; I teach one day a week at a local girls' school; I have a few (generally unmusical) private pupils. That's it.

Things haven't quite got as desperate as this, however. Would one like fries with that?

Friday, 27 March 2009

What's in a name?

'A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.' So said The Bard. But I sometimes wonder, y'know. Would we be any less likely to admire our national poet if he wasn't called 'Jeremy'? And what of our assistant organist? If he hadn't been Christened 'Roger' we'd have had to change his name by deed-poll. And as for the Dean... well, suffice to say there has never been a better 'Geoffrey' since Bungle, Zippy and Co. were unceremoniously expunged from our moving television screens.

Anyone still following this erratic nonsense will recall that - last November - we admitted female choristers through our ancient portals for the first time. The boys choir continues to decline, both numerically and musically; the distaff side were forever burning their bras and banging on about equality of opportunity, and the choir school recently went co-ed. It was only a matter of time. There were those of us on the back row who expressed disquiet at the move. Rodney still refuses to sing anything lower than an 'E' when backing girls, on account of some misguided musical gentility; Drane (my opposite number on Decani) engages deputies more frequently when the men and girls are teamed up and the Boy (Roger) is allowed free-reign (rather literally) with the girls' choir on account of the fact that the DoM regards himself as 'above' that kind of thing.

But. But. If truth be told (and where else if not here?) these gels are rather good. They can actually sing. And they are an awful lot more fragrant than the farting boys. And is it, reader, a coincidence that their names are so... exotic? Here is but a small selection: Roxanna-Libby; Constanza; Emilina-Daisy; Clarissa; Grace-Olivia; Justinia and - my own personal favourite - Abigail-Louise, or Abi-Lou. What lovely, sophisticated monikas. What wonderfully evocative labels. No wonder Roger cannot keep his hands off them, with names like that to whisper ticklishly in adolescent ears.

And just compare them with the boys: Jack, William; John; Oliver, and Eric.

How can one in all honesty regard oneself as musical in any shape or form with a name as dull as that? I have no wish to cause offence to anyone thus maligned. But I fear Shakespeare may, for once, have been a little wide of the mark. Is it any wonder the traditional boys' choir is in such a sorry state?

Monday, 16 March 2009

Still here

But rather neglectful. I had considered 'giving up' blogging for Lent, but was so infuriated by the nonsense about cricket that I simply had to post. But now, mid-way through this period of abstinence, I find myself at a loose end, wondering why the DoM chooses such drivel for the Lentern Sundays music list (Sundays don't count in Lent; they are all festivals of the resurrection, therefore should be celebrated with appropriate music and not the turgid nonsense he insists on us singing). Honestly, you'd think that one of the clergy would disabuse him of his mistaken notion, but they probably don't know any better. So, what have I given up for Lent? Giving up, that's what. It's simply too much trouble.


Monday, 2 March 2009

Damned impudence!

Can you believe it? I mean, I ask you - can anyone in their right mind possibly consider even for a moment that it's true? Those blasted pinkos at BBC HQ have really gone and done it now. Oh, I am utterly distraught. I cannot bring myself to even contemplate the enormity of it all. I feel the need to lie down in a darkened room with a plentiful supply of Plymouth gin, Noilly Prat and ice. Yes, lots and lots of ice.

I am utterly at a loss to even for a moment consider a rational explanation. I still cannot believe it. No, not that damned silly parlour game presided over by Mr Sneer. (Although, come to think of it, one might conclude that this, too, is a decision borne out of those limp-wristed, namby-pamby goodfornothings at the BBC. I mean - Manchester! Good Lord above.) Oh no, no, no. The source of my discomfiture, the origin of my anxst is much more serious. I cannot tell you. You will have to read it for yourself.

Bloody Belgium?

I don't believe it!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Well, well!

For just about the first time in my existence, I seem to have been ahead of events. A mere senight ago I remarked on the ferocious intelligence and lightening button-pressing of the captain of the Corpus Christi team on the television quiz show, University Challenge. And this morning - after her triumph in the competition yesterday evening - she is being feted as possibly the cleverest woman in Britain. Well, you heard it here first.

Interestingly, even Mr Paxman seems to have warmed to the young woman's charms. And the announcer-wallah's tone rose audibly as he fairly screamed the girl's name - "Corpus Christi Trimble!" - every time she won her starter for ten. And what a pleasant, modest, demure and - yes, intelligent - young woman she appears to be. Dear God, when I survey some of the half-dressed, extravagently-coiffured and utterly ignorant young ladies I have the misfortune to instruct in singing on a weekly basis, I despair. With their gum-chewing, tongue-piercing, high-heel clicking, bovine yeah-whatevah-ing manner one could be forgiven for assuming that the female youth of this city had emerged as a result of some rather unfortunate genetic experiment. A failed genetic experiment, at that.

So let us laud and magnify the fair Gail as she and her team emerge in triumph from the lair of the dragon Paxman. Let peals be rung, let poets (Laura - are you 'on your marks'?) write heroic odes and let choirs sing. In tune. And with the beat. And something that's worth singing.

Well, there has to be a first time for everything.