Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Monday, 8 December 2008
Saturday, 29 November 2008
I am well-known, in those circles where I am well known, for my frugality of lifestyle. Not for me the flash cars and the fancy meals; not for me the monogrammed, designer cassocks or the patent-leather chasuble. Oh no. When one is in receipt of a modest stipend, supplemented by the odd (decidedly) half-hour of teaching and some solo singing at fifty quid a pop one needs to live within one's means.
Many times in these financial straitened months have I been asked to 'share the secret', as it were. It is with increasingly regularity that I am petitioned for advice on matters of financial frugality. People are clearly 'tightening their belts' a little, and who better to go to for advice than someone used to half-a-lifetime of living on next-to-nothing. So, here is Can Bass's Guide to the Credit Crunch:
1. Live within your means
2. Treat shopping as a necessity rather than a hobby;
3. In supermarkets, look above and below the 'eye level' shelves;
4. Use a weekly market, if you have one;
5. Put on an extra layer of clothes, and turn the heating down.
And that's it!
Saturday, 22 November 2008
From Harmony, from heav'nly harmony
This universal frame began...
You don't know it? Well, you should. And in my humble and uneducated opinion the likes of Professor Stephen Hawkwind, Dickhead Dawkins, not to mention Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck, Ludwig Log, Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger and the entire host of particle cosmologists or whatever they choose to call themselves could have saved themselves a good deal of time sweating over impossible mathematical calculations if they'd merely read John Dryden's Ode first, as it effectively says everything there is to say about the origin of the universe, only with a great deal more poetry and none of the difficult sums.
However. My own favourite setting of this noble Ode comes from the pen of one Giovanni Battista Draghi. Oh, there are others, including many from great Englishman like John Blow, Henry Purcell, Frederick Handel (who said he was German?) and Benjamin Britten (ok, so he was a homosexual, but we must not hold that against him). So why, I hear you cry from the vastness of cyber-space, is your favourite setting from the pen of an Italian? Well it isn't, or at least he wasn't. Not really. He was certainly as much of an Englishman as Handel. Why, I feel certain he would have been born on these fragrant shores if only his parents hadn't been unspeakable dagos. But no matter. It is, quite simply, the finest setting of this admirable text known to man. Or woman. And not just because it has some spectacular bass solo's, either.
Friday, 14 November 2008
Ho hum. I shall, in due course, add a cast list to what Blogger calls the 'side-bar'. I hope it helps. Until then, let me introduce you to the remainder of the choir...
Sunday, 9 November 2008
Sixteen thousand men and women have been killed in battle since the last shot was fired at the end of World War Two. If that doesn't make the whole thing relevant, I don't know what does. And let us not forget the words of Eric Blair, either...
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
Pity his son Tony didn't take more notice, really.
Monday, 3 November 2008
- It involves sustained use of the diaphragm, with which the girl regularly struggles;
- Mr Anthony Wedgwood Benn, and his son Hillary Wedgwood Benn;
- Approximately six and a quarter inches (in my stocking-ed feet, that is);
- Mind your own bloody business;
- The Head Virger's ferret, allegedly;
- Never, not even on a Sunday!
Thursday, 30 October 2008
Monday, 27 October 2008
Thursday, 23 October 2008
Consider the structure, dear reader: an opening plea to the Almighty to 'open Thou our lips' followed by the chanting of psalmody (a practice pre-dating Christianity) and a reading from the Old Testament of the Bible. Then, we get the news of Jesus's arrival in the form of Mary's hymn - magnificat - followed by a reading from the book inspired by His ministry, and the thanks of Simeon (set, of course, to music) for being thus enlilghtened, after which it is seemly to recite the Creed. Prayers follow, and an anthem, and the service ends in the glory of a mighty organ voluntary. It never fails to move, dear reader, even when the choir outnumbers the congregation by a ratio of two to one, or when the congregation on a winter's evening consists merely of a couple of drunkards sheltering from the elements and clanking empties every time they kneel to pray. For 'whenever two or three are gathered together...' and all that. And it is right for such a service, glorying as it does in some of the finest of this country's musical offerings, to be broadcast by the BBC, and on a weekday, too. I have no problem with that. Far from it, if I had my way I would insist that the service was once more broadcast on a Friday, too, as was the case not so very long ago.
These days, sadly, we only get one 'crack of the whip' so-to-speak. And that, as ill-fortune would decree, is on our dumb-day (our day off, in other words). So when the BBC descends with its miles of cabling and myriads of microphones (time was, you got one slung between the two sides of the choir and made the best of it) not only do we have to give up whatever ordinarily occupies our time in the middle of the week (in my case, teaching) but we have to go to the cathedral even earlier for rehearsals and for 'balance-testing' and then do the whole thing at four o'clock instead of the usual five-thirty. But worse, far worse, is the unworthy dross the DoM insists on bringing out of the music cupboard, the better to 'show off' his choir on the radio. Dear God, it is bad enough singing the stuff on the wireless, but we've already started to rehearse it and it's months before the BBC van will descend on the cathedral close. Vanitas, vanitatum (as the prophet said). Omnia vanitas.
Saturday, 18 October 2008
Thursday, 16 October 2008
1. Before the ending of the day (EH264: Mode viii)
I do so love the old plainchant hymns, don't you?
2. Jesu, lover of my soul (Aberystwyth)
'I always sing Aberystwyth...' And why not? What a lovely, gloomy Welsh tune.
3. For all the saints (Sine Nomine)
By the great RVW himself (though why he couldn't come up with a name, I don't know).
4. Ye holy Angels bright (EH517: Darwell's 148th)
A saucy little number; has an abundance of alternative opening lines, depending on the choirs' mood!
5. All people that on earth do dwell (Old Hundredth)
Preferably with big brass and an even bigger organ!
6. God that madest earth and heaven (East Acklam)
About the only decent thing that Francis Jackson ever wrote, if you ask me. What need of more?
7. Guide me, O Thou Great Redeemer (Cwn Rhonnda)
I know it's Welsh. But...
8. The day Thou gavest (St Clement)
I can never sing this hymn without stiiffening my upper lip. It was our valediction at my dear old prep school, sadly closed now (and amid some scandal, too).
9. Christ is made the sure foundation (Westminster Abbey)
There has to be some Purcell, somewhere.
10. When in our music, God is glorified (Engelberg)
Appropriate words, don't you think? And a damned fine Stanford tune, too!
So, there you have it. Anyone care to add their own?
Sunday, 12 October 2008
Thursday, 9 October 2008
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony
Sit, Jessica: Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There's not the smallest orb that thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
Come, ho! and wake Diana with a hymn!
With sweetest touches pierce your mistress' ear,
And draw her home with music.
The reason is, your spirits are attentive...
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Saturday, 4 October 2008
Monday, 29 September 2008
Anyway, for anyone with an inordinate amount of time to spare (oh no - number five!) here is the full list. I dread to think how many years of purgatory I must now endure as a result of coveting dear Felicia.
1 You shall not put your blog before your integrity
2 You shall not make an idol of your blog
3 You shall not misuse your screen name by using your anonymity to sin
4 Remember the Sabbath day by taking one day off a week from your blog
5 Honour your fellow-bloggers above yourselves and do not give undue significance to their mistakes
6 You shall not murder someone else's honour, reputation or feelings
7 You shall not use the web to commit or permit adultery in your mind
8 You shall not steal another person's content
9 You shall not give false testimony against your fellow-blogger
10 You shall not covet your neighbour's blog ranking. Be content with your own content!
Thursday, 25 September 2008
Sunday, 21 September 2008
What normally happens on such occasions is that the dear boy, our assistant organist (he of the multiple and sometimes simultaneous female conquests - really, I don't know where the fellow gets his energy!) pulls out 'all the stops' so that the few brave airmen growling out the air two octaves lower than they should are spared all feelings of self-consciousness. As a consequence, those exercising their vocal chords in such a manner are encouraged to sing even louder, at which point the box is closed abruptly and the organist stops playing. It provides the choir with a moment of amusement, and these are few and far between. But the assistant was absent for this morning's annual Battle of Britain service, and his deputy (the newly appointed organ-scholar) seemed unfamiliar with this minor act of musical mischief-making. We were therefore treated to such hymnody as befits Bleanwyrn and Cwm Rhonda (oh no, it's him again!) as if we alone were singing. Which in point of fact we were. And as if that wasn't enough, we had the obsequious anedoinal preachings of their bloody padre to endure for half an hour. Half an hour! Even the sub Dean (he of the dramatic pauses) doesn't go on that long. So all in all, a somewhat disappointing Sunday. And to make matters worse, Felicia happened to remark (whilst glancing disapprovingly at my hush puppies) how smart the young men looked in their blue uniforms. I feel a visit to the shoe shop may be necessary.
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
Thursday, 11 September 2008
Sunday, 7 September 2008
Sunday morning at the cathedral generally begins at nine o'clock sharp with a short rehearsal prior to the first of the morning's services. Today was no exception. We amused ourselves in the song school by following what the DoM actually beat for a change (tho' we set our own tempi in the service); we were informed that our first engagement with the new girls' choir would be in November (much to Rodney's relief); everyone looked very smart in newly washed and ironed surplii. Some of the younger choristers had even combed their hair! Even Drane (Dec Bass 1) was on good form for once (not boring one incessantly with the details of his holiday). We robed in the vestry and then lined up for the procession and... there, looking resplendent in her virginal white alb was the woman of my dreams. Oh, what a sight to behold. I caught her eye and definitely detected the slightest twinkle as she stood to attention for the Dean and Chapter, cross held aloft in her steady hands. After the service, over coffee, I made my move (I have been taking lessons from the Assistant Organist - he of the multiple conquests). And? I hear you cry. What happened? Do tell. And I will, dear reader, I will. But the details will have to be related at another time. I could not, for the love of God, tell you one snippet of the things we talked about. I cannot recall I single word I uttered. All I see now in the dim light of my study is the radiance of her face, the clear beauty of her eyes and the retrouche quality of her freckled nose. Oh Lord, open Thou our lips! Suffice to say that at luncheon I forswore the company of my fellow academical clerks and the cosy familiarity of Ye Olde Wisdom of Solomon for a little cafe that Felicia is in the habit of frequenting with her mother. We had a tolerable Welsh Rarebit and I bought the dear young thing a cup of camomile tea. (I myself showed the utmost restraint and ordered dandelion and burdock, whatever that is!) And we arranged to meet again, the very next time she's on the servers' rota. Oh, how my step was jaunty on the way back to the song school to prepare for evensong; how my mood was gay! Even the vocal contortioning of Howell's Gloucester Service was as music to my ears this afternoon. The Dean preached a reasonably interesting (and short) sermon and, as we left the cathedral the DoM handed us the music list for next week. And we've got Stanford in G on Wednesday. Stanford in G! And it's a Can verse week! Oh, there most certainly is a God after all, Mr Clack, and He is kind and benevolent and benign and omnipotent. And so to bed, altho' I fear I shall not sleep. I must, however, get a grip before the morning. Kayleigh's here, first thing, for another lesson.
Thursday, 4 September 2008
Saturday, 30 August 2008
I myself would of course consider it an honour to accept the commission for an alternative composition. (Anything as long as it doesn't go to Johnny Rutter.) But even if the honour did not fall my way, I can think of any number of more inspiring anthems: Land of Hope and Glory, for example; or 'Barwick Green' by the late, great Haydn Wood. So come on, dear reader. What would your choice be for 2012?
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Now, where was I? Ah yes, choral singing. And Radio Four. Jenny Murray first. Her mellifluous tones informed the world that when the Olympics come to Britain next it will be greeted by massed choirs of choral singers echoing to the joyful strain and enjoining all-comers to raise the happy refrain (as long as said refrain isn’t something by John Rotter). This gave rise to a discussion of the role which choral singing has traditionally played in the cultural life of this sceptered isle. Of course, a selection of so-called ‘experts’ had been wheeled into the studio to inform the listeners that approximately 80% of men are baritones and a similar percentage of women, mezzos. Utter rubbish. Complete balderdash. Total piffle. How do they think a four-part choir could function if only one tenth of the sound was generated by the soprani? (The same would not, of course, apply to the tenors, whose number could be dimished almost to zero without any adverse effect on most choirs - sorry, Mr Clack.) Nevertheless the lady speaker did at least say that to be sure of one's tessitura one must consult an expert – a singing teacher. Yes! So if anybody out there wants to know precisely what they are, I’ll tell them. For, of course, a small fee.
Thursday, 21 August 2008
I have already written to the Director General at BBC HQ to complain in the sternest manner about the sobriquet 'choir' being applied to the musical (ha!) ensembles participating in this so-called competition. I happened to be trapped into viewing it whilst sojourning with my sister. And it proved difficult to avoid. Having endured it once with something of a rictus grin on my face on the Saturday evening, I then had to repeat the entire ordeal again on Sunday. Dear Lord above, it was enough to drive a man to drink (and if my sister had had any in the bungalow, I might have been forced to take it - intravenously). And the cause of my frustration? The reason for my somewhat negative reaction? Why, the term 'choir' of course. In the course of two entire episodes of the so-called entertainment, I witnessed only one ensemble which could justifiably aspire to the title 'choir'. And they were Welsh. All the others seemed to be made up of unfeasibly young persons up well beyond their bed-times prancing about the stage and dancing to the sound of their microphoned voices. Dear readers, such exhibitionist behaviour does not a choir make. Where was the subtle harmony of voices - the lyrical beauty of soprano; the matronly stability of contralto; the incandescence of the tenor and stentorian splendour of the bass? Nowhere. Instead we were treated to a succession of grinning and gyrating boobies singing songs the like of which I'd never heard and whose lyrics made my sister blush! And now I find they're advertising on my site. Help! Please help! The choral scholars don't return until September. I am bereft. Please tell me, what am I to do?
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
What about that, then? An entire wall of glass! How wonderful! (Makes our own rather poky east window look a bit sick by comparison, I can tell you.) And that's not all. Oh no. For beyond the aforementioned window, in a tiny chapel-off-a-chapel in the southern-most corner of the eastern protrusion lies this little gem -
God, in the form of a church musician (should He have required another incarnation)!
On my return home I immediately appraised the so-called Director of Music here of my proposal for a similar memorial window to be erected in our own cathedral. I could tell he was rather taken with the idea, at least until I reminded him that he would have to die in order to be similarly recognised. No matter. Only one thing about my trip to Gloucester left me slightly ill at ease. It was this:
Yes - a homosexual. And a king! And if Gloucester Cathedral could be so magnanimous towards Edmund II, why on earth couldn't the wallah's at Lambeth do the same for Bishop Gene Pitney?
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
Sunday, 3 August 2008
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Liz. Dear lady. The flaw in your argument centres, of course, on the word 'sex' which, when applied to one's biological nature, is of course perfectly clear but which, in another context, may also be correctly used as an abbreviation for the act of 'sexual intercourse' -which itself takes the word 'sex(ual)' to specify a form on interaction of an intimate nature, one not to be mistaken for any other form of intercourse - for example, social intercourse, oral intercourse or even musical intercourse (and I am NOT referring to Ravel's Bolero!). Gender, meanwhile, refers to the role either ascribed by or assumed within a particular society and conforming to its laws of sexual identity. Hence, boys in blue and girls in pink. It could so easily be the other way around, you know. I once knew a man who wore a dress. But he was the Archbishop, so it didn't matter. Thus gender as a term is wholly socially defined. Why not dress boys in pink (we do here)? And why shouldn't girls wear the trousers? These are gender roles, dear lady, and have nothing whatsoever to do with what is modestly preserved in the underwear department. I hope that clears things up.
Now, for the rest of you - here are your orders: we are henceforth on a seek and destroy mission. Whenever one encounters the dreaded 'g' word, you must strike it out at once! Do unto the abomination what St George did to the dragon. Put on the armour of self-righteousness - delete the impostor, and reinstate the 's' word in its place. Do this as often as you find it, in remembrance of linguistic accuracy. I will go before you; I will show you the way. I have myself in the last three days replaced the 'g' word on at least a dozen application forms. (I still await a response from Mr Asda.) Go to it, my people. Be as a light unto the gendered gentiles! And as St Dave Allen always finished, may your God go with you.
Monday, 21 July 2008
Saturday, 19 July 2008
Name: no problems there, obviously (even after a rather heavy night on Old Precentor's Cassock-Lifter)
Address: again, I was equal to the challenge.
Date of birth: a slight impertinence, in my opinion, but no matter.
And then they did it. They had to do it, didn't they? And they did. They asked me for my...
Gender. There, I've said it - gender. Gender gender gender gender GENDER!
And I confess that I was flummoxed. And not only flummoxed, but annoyed. And not just mildly irritated, but filled with righteous indignation. Why, I hear you ask? What possible reason could there be for being exercised by such a simple question? What's Can Bass's problem?
Well, I'll tell you what my problem is. My problem is this - SEX. Sex is my problem. Yes, sex. Sex sex sex sex sex. What the johnnies at application-form HQ fail to realise when they sit around designing their insufferable little forms is that the answer they want to the question labelled gender isn't 'gender' at all. It's sex. They want to know my sex. They want to find out if I'm male or female, not whether I'm a man who wears a dress (I don't, by the way - a cassock doesn't count). They do not wish to find out if I am 'in touch' with my feminine nature (though, of course, I am); neither do they wish to know which team I 'bat' for, so-to-speak. They simply want to find out what combination of chromosomes I have inherited. Not whether I do body-building or embroidery, or whether I'm a rugger-bugger or a dilettante cricketer. So I rather fear that my answer to the question - masculine - might not be what they're looking for. No matter. I intend this very day to start a new campaign to re-instate sex as the identifier in such matters. Join today if you wish, like me, to reclaim your man or womanhood. What business is it of Mr Asda's whether I'm a hearty or an aesthete? Or of your employer's whether you satisfy your soul arranging flowers or else downing double-vodkas? It's not our gender that they want to know, dear reader. It's our sex. Let's give it to them. Down with 'gender' - and up with sex!
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Friday, 11 July 2008
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
Wednesday, 2 July 2008
Saturday, 28 June 2008
Thursday, 26 June 2008
'That's no bloody good' said Rodney as his head appeared from underneath his robes.
'Unless he's doing it in tennis shorts!'
Personally, I'm disappointed that Miss Sharapova will be taking no further part in this year's contest.
Monday, 23 June 2008
Thursday, 19 June 2008
So said Lord Byron. But what does he know? All that swimming the Hellespont can’t have done his vocal chords much good, and heaven only knows where he got the energy to sing after spending his nights in flagranti with a succession of Venetian noblewomen. But he did elsewhere express his unequivocal admiration of the boys’ voice (or was it merely admiration of a choirboy? Not quite sure of that one). Whatever, we could have usefully done with some support from the nobility when the Dean announced that, from September, we would be admitting girls into the song school. I must say we, in the choral vicar department, had failed woefully to see that one coming.
‘But St Paul says, in Corinthians, that ‘women should stay silent in the churches’ Rodney spluttered in the vestry, looking almost as if he was about to burst into tears.
‘Yes, old man’ sniped Drane (who, for those of you unfamiliar with this growing narrative is my opposite number – Dec Bass 1) 'but no-one’s asking them to speak in tongues. If you were listening to the Dean’s sermon last Sunday you’d understand the context of that passage refers to the chaotic spread of glossolalia in the early church.’
‘But…but…in Timothy, Paul says that women have to learn in silence and with all submissiveness.’
‘… and if there’s anything they desire to know or do, then they should ask at home.’
‘And so it’s obvious.’
‘Yes it is – they should remain at home and listen to CDs.’
I have to sympathise with Rodney (and, as conductor of the local choral union with responsibility for booking soloists, I have to keep 'on side' with him as well). But I rather think a girls' choir might be fun. It certainly can't be any less musical than the boys we have at present. And they'd be a darn site prettier. And more fragrant. And another source of income! (No doubt some of them would like a singing teacher?)
Monday, 16 June 2008
Saturday, 14 June 2008
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Monday, 9 June 2008
'Go on, old man' urged Rodney. 'We're all desperate to know' although we all know that what Rodney was desperate to know was merely whether he was still in with a chance.
'Her name is Jennifer' I told him later.
'Damn!' he said, and downed the remainder of his pint in one.
'Same again, old chap?' I asked.
'I suppose so' he replied, and by the time I got back from the bar I must say he had pulled himself together admirably.
'Now' he told me, confidentially as I sat back down beside him. 'I don't suppose you've got the number of that rather pretty alto-dep we had this morning?'
Friday, 6 June 2008
'I’m sorry' the poor chap spluttered as he walked into my music room. 'I’m not at all well this morning.'
'So I see. Perhaps you could move back a little. Move the music stand.'
'Oh no. I’ll tell you what; I’ll open up the windows. Nothing like the fresh air to help clear the tubes and vetilate the vocal chords' I told him. 'Now, where were we. Down the scale, sing ‘oh’ as in ‘hot’'.
He started well - Hoh, -oh - oh - oh – but then on g succumbed again.
'It’s no good' he said 'I’ve got no voice today.'
'And neither will anyone within a hundred yards of you at this rate.
'Don’t be. Maybe we should leave it for this week? Yes, we’ll leave it until you’re feeling better.'
‘But don’t forget to keep practising Die schone Mullerin. We’ll go through it next week.'
I quickly closed the door behind him and then opened it again, along with all the windows. It was rather cold by the time my next pupil turned up, but at least she wasn’t heavily infected.
'Ah, Monica my dear. Do come in. May I take your coat.'
'Well, actually...' she looked around, as if trying to locate something. 'I think I’ll keep it on today, if you don’t mind.'
At the piano we began with warm ups – scales, arpeggios, and vocal exercises. Then, as always, we got down to business, as it were.
'What was it last week, Monica? Wachet Auf?'
'Bless you, dear boy!'
‘No – Bach. Weren’t we doing... no, of course not – Leibesleider: Brahms, of course. So, after three...'
'Bernard, Bernard...if I may?
'Bernard. How long have I been coming to you now? Five years? Ten?'
'Well, you are indeed one of my most loyal pupils, Monica.'
'Yes, and every June, for the last five years, we have done Brahms’ Leibesleider Waltzes. Frankly, Bernard, I’m beginning to get rather bored with Brahms.'
'I do sympathise, Monica, but...'
'Yes' she said. 'I think it’s time we took a new approach – did something different.'
'Yes, different. And I’ve taken the liberty of bringing something that my husband bought for me recently – at my request, of course.'
'Here it is – I do hope you can play it.'
'Ah. It’s not that I can't play it, Monica' I told her. 'Are you quite sure that it’s right for you... for your voice, I mean... your tessitura... your...your...you know, vocal strengths [forgive me, God]. Yes, I’m not at all sure that this piece would play to your strengths or show off your voice to best effect.'
'Oh' she said. 'My husband will be very disappointed.'
'But not half as disappointed as he would be if he heard her singing it' I muttered quietly. There was never any danger that Monica would hear me. It is only a shame she can't procure a hearing aid for being tone deaf, too.
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Monday, 2 June 2008
1. Where do you sing?
Well, no marks for subtlety there. And why, anyway, do you wish to know, whoever you are? I will answer only by saying that I sing at a rather small foundation with a megalomaniac organist and an unmusical precentor. Apparently that rules out hardly any of this country's great cathedrals and thus is not at all helpful to my interlocutor. Good.
2. What colour cassock do you wear?
What colour cassock do you wear? What colour cassock do you wear! I ask you.
3. Have you got a girls choir?
4. Why not?
Because, my dear (on the assumption that 'pinklady' is a female, rather than a countertenor) only the boys voice is truly representative of the long tradition of all-male Anglican singing, a tradition we, here, in this choir, struggle manfully to uphold in the face of untold difficulties.
5. What sort of difficulties?
Put bluntly, the Organista et Magista Choristarum and Precentor.
Enough, I think, for now.
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Sunday, 25 May 2008
Thursday, 22 May 2008
'Had a chance to look at them?' I asked, as casually as I could manage and without a trace of any of my usual hostility towards the over-talented imposter. And, blow me if the blighter didn't say that as a matter of fact he had! Having girded myself to fight the good fight on behalf of my compositional inspirations, I was somewhat nonplussed by his response to my responses. 'Yes' he went on. 'And the Precentor thinks they could be very useful.' Well, I thought - at last some recognition of my talent. 'He thinks they'd be extremely good as sight-singing exercises for our choral scholar applicants, although I had to tell him that - as completely unsingable nonsense - forcing them on anyone of talent would be rather unfair. We don't want to frighten off the youngsters, do we? The Precentor is completely unmusical, you know. Knows nothing at all about these things.'
I resisted the temptation to add that he was not the only one in the cathedral suffering from such epistemological deficiency and snatched back the autograph copy of my masterpiece. So if anyone out there is looking for a set of new and challenging responses - only slightly torn - please let me know. Far from being 'unsingable' they represent to my mind a genuis of musical synthesis, drawing inspiration from the great mediaeval plainsong tradition, the flowering of early polyphony, and the choral works of Giles Swayne. As such, it must surely be unique among the canon of Anglican church Preces and Responses. Imagine the opening of Swayne's Magnificat, combined with the Kyrie from Missa Papae Marcelli and - quite frankly - you're still nowhere near the mark. Hmm - on second thoughts, perhaps the pompous ass of a Precentor has a point. Sight-reading stinkers, anyone?
Monday, 19 May 2008
Friday, 16 May 2008
So said William Byrd. But being a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal and living in the sixteenth century he clearly hadn’t had the dubious pleasure of trying to instruct Kayleigh. For those of you new to this blog, allow me to explain. Kayleigh is so far the only person to present herself as a result of this shameless self-publicity for singing lessons. And I rather wish she hadn't.
'Just sing the note that I play on the piano, Kayleigh' I began by asking, adding that it might help if she removed her chewing gum as well. I played her middle 'c', then we tried 'g' and 'a' and then went down the octave - nothing, not a sound, which you'll understand was not a very promising beginning. 'I can’t sing those notes you’re playing' Kayleigh muttered, sullenly. 'They're just, like, not the notes I sing?'
'So what notes do you sing then, Kayleigh?' I asked.
'Ones like this' she told me, demonstrating what might pass to somebody completely tone-deaf as a reasonable approximation of a person actively engaged in the noble art of singing – someone, that is, in extremis due to acute asphyxiation and a lifetime's smoking.
'Kayleigh - are you sure you want to come to me for singing lessons?' I demanded.
'Oh yeah' she replied, 'cos I’m, like, gonna be a singer.'
Dear Lord Above - the creature wants to be a singer! My repeated 'why-oh-whys' had been intended for the ears of the Almighty, but they seem inadvertently to have been made audible to Kayleigh.
'Cos you're cheap' she told me as a bubble of gum popped in my face. Cheap! Cheap, I ask you! I immediately informed her that my fees were set in strict accordance with the current I.S.M recommendations, but she seemed to think that I was talking about driving lessons.
‘Not BSM young lady – ISM – the Incorporated Society of Musicians. My, er – my union, I suppose.'
'Oh, cool' she said. 'So you’re, like, in a union.'
'No, I'm not - 'like' - in a union, I am in a union.'
'But aren't you - sort of – self-employed?' she asked. 'So what d’you do, like – have negotiations with yourself?'
'Aha. Very funny. Well, you see now Kylie – '
'Kayleigh. Sorry. Well you see now Kayleigh, really – in a way – it is my pupils who are my employers. If I agree to take you on, then for half an hour each week you will be my pay-master.'
'Cool' she said.
'Quite so, and now I’m afraid my other pay masters will be getting rather annoyed if I keep them waiting any longer.'
'You got other pupils then?'
'No – I mean yes, of course I have. But not right now, no. Now I’m singing evensong.'
'Evensong – you know - one of the great offices of the Church of England, sung daily in the Cathedrals up and down the country.' But the creature clearly hadn't the first idea what I was talking about. I did think of suggesting she attend the service with me, but good sense prevailed. Dear God, can you imagine what the Precentor might have made of her?