Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Mid-Winter Bleakness

I have an announcement to make. News that 'In the Bleak Mid-winter' has been voted the nation's favourite Christmas carol is misleading, inaccurate, economical with the actualities and downright duplicitous, if you ask me (and I know you didn't, but I'm going to tell you anyway)! Why, I hear you asking? Allow me to explain. 'In the Bleak Mid-winter' might only be one poem (by Christina Rossetti) but it is TWO carols. Yes! One is a setting by Gustav 'The Planets' Holst (my personal preference) and the other is the popular setting by Mr Harold Darke (of whom none of you will have heard unless, like me, you have spent a lifetime from the age of about seven-and-a-half singing in damn choirs!).
Where was I? Ah yes, Harold Darke. I feel certain it is this version that the masses in their wisdom have seen fit to send to number one. What I find mildly irritating (ok then, damned annoying) is the assumption - borne, no doubt, of ignorance - of the massed ranks of telly, radio and newspaper journalists that 'In the Bleak Mid-winter' is a carol, singular. In my opinion they should sack the lot of 'em, especially those obsequious, ingratiating, falsely-smiling, ha-ha-ha-ing ones. And Aled Jones. 
In the meantime, have a listen to Cantabile singing twenty-eight carols in a little over two minutes if you've had enough of this stuff to last you until next year. 
Bah, humbug!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Busy, busy

Yes, dear reader, yes. You read correctly - I am busy. And I'm earning money. I do so love this time of year. Every choral society in the county has a Christmas concert; there aren't enough basses to go round and a few strategic sneezes at my fellow choral-vicars can lead to even more paid work. In the next two weeks I've got Bach's Christmas Oratorio, Vaughan-Williams Carol Fantasia, a Messiah and a bit of Purcell -Behold, I Bring You Glad Tidings. And He does! I am solvent. Why, I might even be able to afford to send some Christmas cards! What? You think it underhand of me to gain extra work by strategically spreading the common cold? Why, God Himself wasn't averse to a little bit of germ warfare every now and then. It's there for all to see in his biography. And talking of the Bible, it's amazing how far some people are prepared to go to spread the word...

Saturday, 29 November 2008

International No Shopping Day - Hurray!

Now, this is more like it! An entire day devoted to the studied avoidance of consumerism; twenty-four hours of not being deluded into thinking that the route to happiness lies in conspicuous consumption. In the midst of International Week of the Keyboard, World Nest-Of-Tables Day or the European City of Plywood Manufacturing, this is a day whose cause I can subscribe to wholeheartedly; this is a issue worthy of a good deal more attention.
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

St Cecilia

Today cannot pass without mention of the Patron Saint of Music. Little is known of St Cecilia, but by all accounts she was a tough old bird (not unlike the Chapter secretary). Her martyrdom was a long drawn out affair, involving all manner of indignities. Her 'early bath' was followed by not one, not two, but three attempts at decapitation! Understandably affronted, Cecilia retired to her chamber and lived for a further three days - singing the Almighty's praise, if you please! - before the great conductor in the sky reached the final downbeat.

But enough of all that nonsense. It has long been a tradition in this sceptered isle of ours to celebrate the day with a setting of John Dryden's Ode to St Cecilia. You know, the one that begins...

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

Dramatis Personae

I have been talking (that is, face-to-face and not through the medium of the computer screen) with friends who have read these intermittent missives and have asked for further information. The gist of their request is this: 'Can we have a list of the various characters referred to on your blog so that we can keep up with the story, as-it-were?' My response was somewhat equivocal at first; for I am bound, by reasons of confidentiality (not to say the laws of libel) to keep the identity of many of my fellow travellers here in the cathedral choir a mystery. Where I have used names these have, of course, been changed. Rodney, for example, is not Rodney - middle-aged, balding homosexual tenor and conductor of the local choral society. Well of course he is, but he's not called Rodney. Neither is Drane called Drane (although he sounds like one, and therefore should be). As for the Dean, the Precentor, the sub-Dean, the Chancellor and the Canon Treasurer - well, they're ten-a-penny at cathedrals up and down the country, so no danger there. The same goes for the Director of Music, of DoM (although a few cathedral still appoint at Organist to run the choir, which makes no sense whatsoever. Why should someone, by means of instrumental virtuosity, be deemed qualified to teach choristers to sing? It would be like assuming that the Dean, by virtue of his theological credentials, knows anything at all about Christianity, or the Treasurer, money. No, far better to appoint a singer, in my view. Just not the lamentable failure we seem to have 'copped' for here!) Where was I? Ah yes, the DoM. Well, nobody could recognise him from my descriptions. There are at least half-a-dozen other likely candidates within a fifty mile radius of the gentleman in question. But what about the 'Boy', the Assistant Organist - Robin to the DoM's Batman? Could any other cathedral have a serial shagger in the organ loft? And dear Lord above, haven't they gone and given him the cathedral girls choir? The girls choir, for the love of God! Girls! And Shagger Stephenson! Can you imagine? (Well, I suspect a number of you can, which is why I am about to draw a veil over proceedings. And no, Stephenson is not his real name! Really, what do you take me for?) Speaking of the girls, though, I must say how well they have, ahem, 'performed' on their recent outings with the Boy. What a fine, melodious sound the Assistant Organist has managed to coax from their adolescent breasts. What purity of vocal harmony has he procured from their delicate, teenage lips. Oh, there can be no doubt about it. The Boy's got talent. No doubt once he's made his reputation (provided he hasn't ruined it first) he'll be seeking his fortune as a DoM at one of the great cathedrals of the realm. Oh yes, dear reader, on the evidence thus far he has a great future ahead of him. Provided, that is, he conserves at least a little of his prodigious energy. Honestly, I've never known a fellow quite so... busy!

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

Age shall not weary them...

The yearly cycle brings us to Remembrance Sunday. Some comment on the increasing irrelevance to a generation so far removed from the two enormous conflicts of previous century. Personally, I find it all immensely moving; the boys, too, seem to find a mood of genuine solemnity within them. And this Sunday, for the first time, we had girls too - singing Mark Blatchley's 'Fall the Fallen'. Even Rodney commented on how moving it all was.

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

Tag time

I have been tagged, apparently. Not once, but twice: first, by Miss Lucy Fishwife (a most unfortunate name) and next by Mr Gadjo Dildo. Having prevaricated long enough, I have today decided to 'take the plunge' as it were. It's either that or tell you the Virger's All Saints Day joke. So here goes. I am required, under the terms of this game, to reveal six random facts about myself. Here they are:
  1. It involves sustained use of the diaphragm, with which the girl regularly struggles;
  2. Mr Anthony Wedgwood Benn, and his son Hillary Wedgwood Benn;
  3. Approximately six and a quarter inches (in my stocking-ed feet, that is);
  4. Mind your own bloody business;
  5. The Head Virger's ferret, allegedly;
  6. Never, not even on a Sunday!

There. Having thus disharged my duty, I reluctantly suggest the following people pick up the baton: Mr Bones, Mr Fogey, Miss Laureate, Mr Saw, Brother Tobias, and Sir Monocle.

Thursday, 30 October 2008


I am not normally an aficionado of natural history programmes on the moving television screen; if one wants wildlife, one only has to spend one's life in the Church of England and for nature red in tooth and claw, an English Cathedral. No matter. I am not, in point of fact, normally a viewer of very much the telly has to offer (largely because it has so little). But one can't paper walls forever, one has to wait for paint to dry and in so doing this week I have become rather taken by this programme. This has been helped, no doubt, by watching it in conditions not unlike those endured by the presenters seated by their braziers or else being buffeted by North Sea gales. All the windows of my flat have been wide open (decorating fumes are terribly bad for singing) and thus, the heating has been turned off (I'm not paying to heat the Precentor's patio!) and the lights, too, as a money-saving measure. More of that anon. But I cannot let this week's revelations pass without drawing to your attention the small matter of the deer rut. For the programme has proved beyond reasonable doubt that success in, ahem, the small matter of what gentleman and women (or gentle deers and does) get up to in the privacy of their conjugal terrain (that is, when not under the intrusive gaze of Simon King!) is due not to the size of antler (or the size of whatever the equivalent in human terms might be) or strength and fearsomeness in battle, not even on physical appearance or prowess. No. Success 'with the ladies' is attributed to none of this. At least not among the fallow deer. No. What lady deers admire, what makes them prick up their furry little ears, what turns their delicate heads and positively gets them queueing up for the attentions of a stag is... the man's voice. Yes. The sound he makes. And the deeper, the better. Personally, I've always found it rather strange that opera composers cast the male lead as a tenor, a fact no doubt attributable to the fact that so many of them must be homosexual. Now we know, thanks to the BBC, that deeper is definitely better. And I shall now lose no time in apprising dear Felicia of the fact. In person. Toodle-pip!

Monday, 27 October 2008

The atheist omnibus

I am indebted to Mr Rob Clack, sometime tenor and fellow blogger, for apprising me of the campaign to place adverts on the side of London buses opining that there is 'probably' no God. Quite apart from the fact that the wording seems to lack a little of the certainty that is supposed to be the case in atheistic circles (Prof. Dawkins springs to mind) I am all in favour of opening the debate. I have but one observation to make, and it is this. The organisers of the campaign could havbe saved themselves an awful lot of money if they'd simply paid a visit to our cathedral. For surely, if God did exist with all the certaintly that one of simple faith demands, He would take a little more care in the choice of those appointed as His representatives on earth? Consider the Dean, for example: a great man, in so many ways; an academic, an administrator, a whizz with the cathedral accounts, always with one eye on the main financial chance. Oh yes, the Dean is a very skilled operator indeed. (In fact, I am reminded of the recently returned Business Secretary in more ways than one when considering the Head of our foundation.) But as an example of Christian charity, forgiveness, kindness, magnanimity? Well, suffice to say the latter are qualities he manages to keep well hidden. Oh, give him a fundraising campaign, and the little glint returns once more to his good eye; or offer him the chance to hob-nob with some royalty, and he is obsequiesness personified. He would not be out of place running a large financial institution. (Indeed it is doubtful if our own UK financial institutions would be in the mess they're in now if The Dean were at the helm!) No, dear reader: the atheist fraternity need look no further than our Christian community for the grain of 'doubt' their adverts seek to sow in the minds of the public. I could furnish other examples. I may do at a later date. For now, let's hope the wallah's at atheist headquarters finally see sense and put the enormous sums so far raised to better use. Like re-decorating the Can Bass flat, for example, for that is the 'joy' awaiting me this half-term holiday.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Choral Evensong

The more discerning amongst you will have noticed that the BBC's weekly broadcast of the Church of England's greatest contribution to world culture has reverted (after being 'mucked about' for years during which it appeared at one time - if at all - in the wee small hours of a Monday morning) to a weekday slot: Wednesday, at 4p.m. Of course, this cannot be other than 'good news'. For cathedral musicians, weekday evensong is the 'magnum opus' of their offering. True, Sunday morning Eucharist might liturgically be more important, but there is nothing to match the musicality of evensong nor - in my untrained opinion - the theology.

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

Railway Walks

I am not, nor have I ever been, remotely interested in either railways or walking. But I am enjoying Julia Bradbury's series of railway walks. There is so little of value on the moving television screen these days, and even less for a gentleman of discerning tastes (as I like to think I have). But Julia Bradbury.... I'll tell you what, dear listeners. Forget the favourite hymns for a moment - let's do favourite TV presenters instead. Top of my list, of course, would be Valerie Singleton, closely followed by Angela Rippon. And dear, dear Julia would certainly be in the top three. I quite admired Aneka Rice, but found the confounded nonsense she presented completely unintelligible. I'd happily watch Miranda Krestovnikoff and Alice Roberts walking round the English coastline, too. But I'd have to trade them all in for an evening talking music with the delightful Sara Mohr-Pietsch. And to think she won her job in a talent contest. Honestly, it provides a whole new meaning to the word.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Favourite hymns

Be assured, dear reader, that not one note of the following will ever appear on 'Songs of Praise'. And don't get me started on the subject of Alan Jones. But for your delectation and delight, and in response to so many requests, I present my personal list of favourite hymns. Here they are:

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


Today has been declared 'Vaughan-Williams Day', commemorating fifty years since the great man's passing. We marked the occasion by doing the communion setting in G, and the lovely little motet 'O Taste and See'. Delightful pieces both (and there are more, of course). And yet, and yet... I am afraid the great man's contributions to the Anglican choral repertoire do not represent his greatest works. Which is why we also made sure there were plenty of V-W hymns from the English Hymnal. My own especial favourite (not sung out-of-season today) is Withers Rocking Hymn, a lovely Christmas piece so rarely heard today. What sayest thou, dear reader? Which hymns float your musical and spiritual boat? I feel a 'top ten' coming on...

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Some poetry...

Today is, apparently, National Poetry Day (so I have gathered from another blog). Doubtless we'll have the clergy muscling in on it at evensong, so before they go and spoil it (they are such an illiterate lot!) I thought I'd offer my own choice of verse to mark the day. Here it is...

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
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.
I am never merry when I hear sweet 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:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.
Act V, scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Initiation Rites

The news of unseemly shenanigans at the University of Gloucester involving unfeasible quantities of alcohol and ill-fitting NAZI uniforms reminded me of initiation ceremonies we have, from time to time, indulged in here in the cathedral choir. And while they usually involve large quantities of alcohol and strange modes of apparel, they nevertheless lack the rather sinister overtones which seem to accompany membership of so many student associations. Why, who could possibly object to having to sing the melody of the Office Hymn up the octave; or to being required to sellotape the keys of the song-school piano together (thus ensuring that the DoM's first chord resembles something from the pen Harrison Birdwhistle rather than the piece of music we are meant to be rehearsing)? Or else being made to wear one's cassock back-to-front? Nevertheless, we too seem to have been overtaken by a tide of namby-pamby, limp-wristed killjoy-ism; many fondly remembered rituals are no more. For example, we no longer climb the tower on Christmas Eve to pelt the congregation for midnight mass with figs; nor do we substitute the figure of the Christ-child in the nativity with a ferret. And oh, for the days when the assistant would improvise his voluntary on well-known TV theme-tunes! Or the choral-scholars fagging for the senior lay-vicars! No, the last remaining vestige of fun these days reside in making the newest member of choir librarian. Thankfully, my own tenure fetching and carrying for the DoM and collecting in the music was brief. I persuaded my good friend Algernon Holt to fill a temporary tenor vacancy a month after I assumed lay-vicarship, and never once, as they say, looked back. Unfortunately for Algie, it was another ten years before someone else joined. Mind you, he did do an excellent job as choir librarian.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Thou Shalt Not...

Well, dear reader. As if world poverty, global warming, a nose-diving economy, and drug banditry (not forgetting homosexuality, of course - I'm sure there's a Freudian explanation for their excessive interest) weren't enough,my employers have seen fit to draw up a list of the Ten Blogging Commandments. I kid you not! You can read all about it here. (By the way, isn't that clever, eh? I inserted that hyper-link all on my own! Oh damn, that's commandment number one gone already.)

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

Oh, but it is...

Someone affixed this cartoon to the vestry notice-board. If only...

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Pomp and circumstance

No, dear reader, no - this is not another tirade of abuse directed at the Welsh windbag, Bryan Tryffd. I like to think that, with your help and encouragement, I have 'moved on' since the events of last weekend. Your messages of support, your words of wisdom (why, even in one case your poetic musings) have given me heart. I am at peace with myself, I have been in good voice this week (far better than Drane, whose verse week it has been, and who has made a pigs ear of some Purcell) and have enjoyed some lovely late summer sunshine with my paramour. No. The title of my post this week concerns events at the cathedral earlier today. For, once every year, the massed ranks of the RAF descend on the place with their squeaky boots and their brilliantined hair and conspire to look shifty during the chaplain's sermon. They dutifully remove their caps the instant they set foot inside the church; they say 'amen' together in a loud voice and in all the proper places, and they stand abruptly to attention on the first chord of the hymns. What they don't do, dear reader, is then sing the bloody things!
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

Last Night of the Proms

Damn and bloody blast Bryn Tryfel! There, I have said it. It is 'out' in the open at last. And I feel better for having thus unburdened myself. Ah yes, I feel the great weight of last Saturday evening lifting from my shoulders at long last. I should make clear at the outset, dear reader, that I have the utmost respect for the man's musical abilities. I have, on occasion, even had the honour of being in his 'backing' group (so-to-speak - I had a minor part in an 'Elijah' he was doing years ago in Huddersfield, if I remember rightly). And speaking of which I have never, to this day, heard either live or on recorded disc anyone, whether living or departed attempt the first two phrases of 'Lord God of Abraham' in just one breath. One breath! The man's a freak, for goodness sake. Breath control like that, and a voice as big as St Pancras railway station can only have been bought at the expense of his immortal soul, I fear. But no matter. He will not 'appear' again on my portable TV set for some time, and I can always hide my record collection when Felicia comes again for supper. 
I had thought, of course, that an evening chez Can Bass followed by the musical festivities from the Albert Hall would be a most enjoyable experience. I could gently 'show off' my musical erudition (I mean, of course, give dear Felicia the benefit of my wisdom - which is a darn sight more than Clive James could when presenting the damned show!); we could snuggle up on the sofa finishing the wine; I might even 'hold her hand'. But no! First we had that idiot Norrington appearing on the conducting podium in a straight-jacket borrowed, no doubt, from the local lunatic asylum (and the orchestra would have been much better off if they had kept the tapes tied so the fellow couldn't wave his arms). Then the Welsh Windbag himself. Dear God, what a face (no competition there)! And what a voice! As soon as the fellow opened his mouth in that peculiar manner he had poor Felicia in a swoon. 
"Oh Can Bass" she said, slightly breathlessly "hasn't he got a lovely voice? It makes me go weak at the knees. Can you sing as low as that?" 
With the colour rising to her cheeks all the while, I attempted to explain the subtle differences between a baritone and bass (I am, technically, the former) but she would have none of it. 
"I'm down to do a solo in the tomorrow's Benedictus" I informed her "if you'd like to listen." 
"Oh yes, Can Bass" she cooed. "I'll be there". 
And then what happened? Yes, you've guessed. The DoM went and gave the blasted solo to Walter Drane (whom I noticed, incidentally, singing in the same peculiar manner as the aforementioned Welshman - i.e. with his bottom lip pulled down at the side like Fulton MacKay addressing Norman Stanley Fletcher, or Mr Geoffrey Boycott smiling. Honestly, the man is such a poseur!). 
After the service I attempted to explain to Felicia what had happened and apologise for dragging her to the cathedral under false pretences. But she was having none of it. 
"Oh but Can Bass, hasn't he got a lovely voice - just like that man last night on the telly."

Thursday, 11 September 2008

A stalker!

Forgive the note of alarm this evening, but I have just 'logged on' (as we say) to find a stalker, er... stalking me. Somebody by the name of 'Working Mum' (though with clearly insufficient in the way of gainful employment) has elected to 'follow' me (whatever that means) and a shadowy image has thus attached itself to my dashboard. This disturbing turn of events comes at a most unfortunate time. As those of you kind enough to comment on my last post may have deduced, things have 'moved on' apace between myself and a certain member of the cathedral team of servers. So much so that I informed her, the other day, of my activities here on the world-wide internet. Suffice to say that it was nearly the end of what I still hope will one day blossom into a beautiful friendship. But after I disabused her of the mistaken (but entirely understandable, given a somewhat sheltered upbringing) conclusion she had reached about me and persuaded her once more to answer the telephone, she decided to book an hour at the local library and 'take a look'. And I'm afraid I could not resist the tempation to browse the stacks in the vincinity of the library's 'web zone'. I know, I know; please don't remind me. But once I had ascertained that she was finding what she read mildly interesting, I leapt out of my hiding place and whisked her off her feet and danced with her all the way to Ye Olde Wisdom of Solomon. Only kidding, dear reader, only kidding. We went to Ma Batty's Tea Shoppe instead! But seriously, it was strangely important for me to receive the lady's tacit approval of my scribblings. But what will she make of my 'following'? And by a married, grown-up lady to boot! Oh dear, the course of true love never did run smooth, I suppose. But at least Shakespeare didn't, to the best of my knowledge, run a blog.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Greater love...

Hello everybody. What a day it's been! I scarce know where to start so I'll begin (in the immoral words of Dylan Thomas) at the beginning. So. Here goes. Are you sitting comfortably?
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

New term

Well, what a summer! I must say, after the monsoon that has been August it has been a blessed relief to climb into September, laden as it is with fruit both real and metaphorical. A new choir term begins this weekend, and I have been in training for the vocal demands to come. (In fact - tell it not in Gath - I have been trying desperately to recover vocal abilities mothballed over the so-called summer. I have been a very bad teacher, doing none of the daily exercises I demand of my pupils!) However, on Sunday we commune with Palestrina - pleasant enough, if one likes that sort of thing - endure a little Mozart and then return to (English) normality with Stanford and - guess what? - Howell's Gloucester Service. Serendipity! Anyway, I for one am looking forward to the start of term; I have read the posts here on the blogosphere of many who regard it as the start of several more months of untrammelled misery. They are mostly schoolteachers, poor souls. (I have also read from some - parents, mostly - who regard it as a blessed relief from the company of their offspring!) But no - I shall iron my surplice and iron-out the few remaining wrinkles in the vocal-chord department and resume my duties on Sunday with renewed enthusiasm. Yes, even though the DoM is back in charge. (You may recall the so-called gentleman was on sabbatical last term.) Why? I hear you ask. Has Can Bass gone mad? Is he 'soft' in the head? Oh no, dear reader, no. Not soft in the head - but in the heart. For I have seen the wisdom that is the servers rota for this coming Sunday. And guess who's crucifer!

Saturday, 30 August 2008

And another thing...

When the Olympic Caravan finally reaches our island shores, perhaps we could have in place a different National Anthem? I had forgotten, when posting last, that one of the principle disadvantages of winning so many races in Beijing was hearing that turgid and funereal dirge played over and over and over again. Dear God, save us from such uninspiring and insipid composing. (The tune is called 'America' for heaven's sake!) As the host nation we, of course, would be obliged to 'top' the medal table, as did the Chinese. Can you imagine the national mood on hearing this a hundred times in 2012? Suicidal; despairing; fainting. And yet all time time our sporting heroes would be winning. And each time we would serenade them on the podium with a ditty of wrist-slashing monotony.

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

Chorus of (dis)approval

Happening to catch an item on the excellent 'Woman’s Hour' recently reminded me of one of the less enjoyable aspects of my forshortened stay in Frinton: the wireless television receiver. It sits in the corner of my sister’s small withdrawing room and jabber-jabbers all day long. First, it’s the news; then recently the wall-to-wall Olympic Games (which, incidentally, seems to be returning to its Hellenistic origins judging by the decreasing size of the lady-competitors attire. Perhaps Miss Cake would care to comment? And as for some of the so-called ‘sports', don’t get me started. Synchronised jumping into the swimming pool, for Heaven’s sake! Whatever next? Ballroom dancing? Ballet? Snail racing, Mr Two-Sox?).
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


Sorry to trouble you all again so soon, but I've had rather a shock. As you know, part of my initial motivation for this blogging business was to add some small crumbs of pecuniary advantage to my meagre cathedral/teaching earnings. With this in mind I got the choral-scholar chappie who looks after all the technicalities of blogging for me to sign up for a spot of advertising on the site. I was assured it would be tasteful, small and relevant to the content of my blog. (The fact that, so far, it has earned no more than £2.70 is irrelevant; I still have hope.) Anyway, I 'logged on' as we bloggers say, this afternoon to read the comments on my latest post (I do so enjoy that, don't you? Reading the responses of people kind enough to write a small reply is one of the greatest delights of this whole enterprise; that, and making tiny contributions to the posts of others. But I digress). What do I find when I log on this afternoon to read 'my' comments? Yes, Mr Musgrove is there in his unfeasibly long shorts; Miss Cake is sunbathing in her underwear again and Gill is hiding behind a bunch of flowers. The others, as far as I can tell, seem not to be accompanied by photographs. But no matter. Having read what they all have to say, having responded as appropriate to one or two enquiries and having 'clicked' on a number of their profiles (are you sure about Inspector Morse, Doshea?) my eye strayed momentarily to the right of the main column where I caught sight of a small, otherwise unobtrusive plug for Sky Plus (whatever that is - personally, I would rather subscribe to Sky minus). And there were the words that sent shivers of revulsion and despair down my spine - Last Choir Standing. Last Choir Standing!

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

Hello again!

Slightly sooner than anticipated, I know, due to the urgency of curtailing my sojourn by the sea. Frinton in the rain was only slightly less attractive than Frinton in the sun, and being allergic to my sister's cushions I decamped to a pal’s in Gloucester. And how glad I am that I did. For a start, Derek knows his music; he sings in the cathedral choir and lives in a rather spacious grace-and-favour apartment in the abbey precincts. So when he suggested that we attend Sunday morning Eucharist to sample the visiting choir’s offering, I was happy to concur. Widor's mass for double choir was very ably performed by the ***** Singers, and their afternoon rendition of Stanford in C was equally splendid. One so wants to applaud! But, of course, one doesn't (unlike those blasted prommers who seemed to need to exercise their arms at the end of each movement of the Elgar violin concerto the other week. And if not their arms, their bloody throats. Dear Lord above, if I were director of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts I would insist that every member of the congregation had a thorough medical examination before admission to the auditorium. And if there was even the merest tickle of a cough, I'd have them shot!) Where was I? Ah yes, Gloucester Cathedral. Gloucester Cathedral! What majesty of Early English architecture. What beauty of medieval craftsmanship! And what, pray, of the splendour of the great East Window? Indulge me for a moment, gentle reader:

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 -

Yes, dear reader, yes - a chapel devoted entirely to the great musicians who have at one time graced the organ loft at Gloucester. No matter that the music in the window on the right is by that stinker, Herbert Howells. (Incidentally, it is a little-known fact that all candidates for the post of organist at Gloucester during the twentieth century had to be called Herbert.) No. The biggest window of them all, the most resplendent in Victorian artistry, the most glorious in its panoply of light and colour, is a memorial to the late, great...

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

Au revoir

In view of my singularly fruitless efforts to gain temporary employment for the month of August, I have decided to have a couple of weeks away from the Cathedral Close. I'm going to my sister's house in Frinton. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

A little latin...

I must say, first of all, how much I am enjoying blogging. In fact, if I am honest, I'm bound to say I end up spending an inordinate amount of time on it; too much time, in fact. But what the hell? I've no more pupils than I had before, it's not the season for solo singing engagements and the cathedral choir will not employ my energies until September, and then but once each day and thrice on Sundays. And Mr Asda seems oblivious to my qualities as temporary shelf-stacker. But no matter. Over the last few weeks it has become clear to me that there has been some slight misunderstanding over the precise nature of my employment here in the Cathedral. Fear not, good people; I am not a 'vicar' in the sense you understand. You may swear if you wish in my presence, and discuss the finer points of conjugal relations if you must. The term 'vicar' - as applied to either laymen like myself or clerks in holy orders - derives from the Latin 'vicarius', meaning 'stand-in'. Yes, dear reader, your local vicar is indeed a stand-in, most probably for the long departed Abbot of a dissoluted monastery. And I am thus a stand in for a stand in. Lord knows, the standards of musicianship amongst the clergy somewhat variable; some of them even admire the works of Graham Kendrick, for God's sake! So the Church, in it's wisdom, employs myself and others like me to do the job (that is, the singing) which would otherwise be done by real priests - or 'vicars' as most people call them. But as we know they're all too busy falling out about homosexuality and women bishops. I hope that clears things up. Tally-ho!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

And about those lady Bishops

Perhaps this has something to do with it...

And don't aspire to the Episcopate, either!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008


As in, doing the Lambeth Walk, dear reader. But no matter. I have today found evidence of the Archbishop of Canterbury's true opinions on the subject of (ahem) homosexual persons of the opposite persuasion. The following clip comes from his time as Mr Grifford Rees-Jones on the Nine O'Clock News, but I think we all recognise Rowan for what he really is...

Thursday, 24 July 2008

More sex please...

I would like to begin by thanking everyone who has thus far responded in affirmative tones to my new 'sex' campaign. Of course, I always suspected that a number of like-minded individuals with a penchant for the correct use of language might exist, but previous attempts to broach the subject had resulted merely in glazed expressions, even yawns on the faces of my listeners in Ye Olde Wisdom of Solomon, the choral-vicars' hostelry. There has been but one respondent failing to concur, so if the rest of you would oblige me for a moment...
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

Well, now...

It seems I have an award. I have been nominated by someone called 'The Dotterel' who seems to find my blog amusing. I like to consider myself a well-bred sort of person, so I will accept this gift in the same spirit as it appears to have been offered, and do as required and nominate my own list of prize-winners. Here they are:
1. Rev'd Mad Priest, Clerk in Holy Orders
2. Kevin Musgrove Esq., Librarian
3. Sir Simon Monacle, Bart. Organist
4. Mr John France, Musicologist
7. Mr Lay-Clerk, er - lay-clerk
Well, that's the end of that, then!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Sex, sex, sex

For the first time in many years, I have today had cause to put pen to paper for the purposes of filling in an application form. It matters not what for. Suffice to say that my blogging enterprise has so far failed to resolve the problem of my monetary security (although it has proved curiously addictive) and I am therefore offering my services for the summer to a local retailing establishment. One has to live, dear reader. Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, the application form. Consider the following questions, if you will:
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

Why, oh why?

I've just attended evensong. No surprises there, I know. But I've attended as a member of the public, rather than the choir; as an observer, rather than as a participant; as a member of the congregation, required merely to mutter 'amen' periodically and join in (if I so wish) with the Office Hymn and the Apostles Creed. I know, I know. I do this for a living almost every day of the year. I should be glad of an opportunity to avoid the Dean and the Precentor for a while. But, well... I had to pay a visit to the vestry, just to leave a little billet-doux in Felicia's pigeon-hole, and whilst there I happened casually to glance at this week's music-list and saw 'Beati Quorum Via' as the introit (it's a Solemn) 'Walmisley in D minor' for the mag and nunc and Elgar's 'Spirit of the Lord' as anthem - all held together with a healthy dose of Kenneth Leighton's Preces and Responses. My musical antennae started twitching; my choral curiosity was aroused; I was interested, I must admit. I did just double-check to make absolutely sure that it wasn't one of the usual inadequate parish choirs that fill in periodically. But no, it was an ensemble with a perfectly sensible name (you should see what some choirs call themselves!) which I had better, in the circumstances, keep a secret. I should have known from the first note of the Stanford what I'd let myself in for. Suffice to say the introit started (just) in the original key, before migrating through several not-so-subtle but unanimous tonal shifts and thence splitting into two completely different keys which slapped against each other like two elderly all-in wrestlers on the erstwhile Saturday afternoon tv show World of Sport. ('Sport' indeed! I ask you - that was a trade descriptions violation, if ever there was one! And as for Dickie Davies's moustache...) The wreckage that was Kenneth Leighton's angular responses was actually something of a slight improvement, but why, oh why with just a couple of under-age baritones and an adolescent tenor or two would a choirmaster want to inflict the Walmisley in D minor on even the least musical of congregations? Suffice to say that far from being magnified, the opening sounded as if it were being viewed through the wrong end of a telescope. And when they started re-composing the Elgar... well I made my excuses, as they say. Please don't get me wrong, dear reader: I am no musical snob. I am as appreciative of other people's efforts as the next man, mostly. I do not blame the singers for yesterday afternoon's debacle, at least not personally. I welcome visiting choirs in our cathedral (it gives us plenty of days off). But why oh why do the people in charge of such an undertaking have to choose such ridiculously inappropriate music? It's like asking the local school recorder group to 'have a go' at Shostakovitch. Or teaching the kindergarten 'Otce Nas' instead of Old MacDonald. It looks good on the music list. That's the trouble - it looks too good. Maybe that's the reason that they do it? But I feel let down, rather, by the whole experience. And I haven't even heard back from Felicia.

Friday, 11 July 2008

All read out...

Ah, bliss. The summer holidays (I refuse categorically to refer to them as 'vacations'). Wine, women (God willing) but definitely not song. Why not? Has Can Bass lost his voice? Has his recent re-audition yielded the unhelpful result that his days as a salaried singer may be over? No, dear reader, no. Nothing untoward has happened. We have merely 'read' the choristers out of the cathedral and put the choir to sleep for the summer. It seemed the kindest thing to do in the circumstances. (Although if I had my way we wouldn't merely 'read' the little blighters out, we'd kick them out with the sharp end of the Precentor's winkle-pickers!) What this means, of course, is one last 'big' sing (and I mean big - Howell's Gloucester Service and Elgar's Give Unto The Lord!) and then a summer of roses and wine. Now, about those women! There are three at present in my life (not including the hordes of pelmet-skirted wannabees at the local Girls' School who have the privilege of my tutelage every Thursday morning) - Monica (65 if she's a day, and going for the Florence Foster-Jenkins singing trophy); Kayleigh or Kylie, or Carly or whatever she chooses to call herself this week (and, yes, she is still paying me for lessons) with whom I could not otherwise be prevailed upon for so much as a handshake and... Felicia, the server. Yes, Mr Sox, the quality of robed-totty is good, at least here in St Swithelburga's. Felicia is the most devine creature ever to be crucifer. She is not, of course, ordained (and nor should she be - no male Apostolic handling for her!) - she is a 'lay' worker, as we say - a volunteer. And oh, does she volunteer! As she leads the choir in the procession on a Sunday morning, her hands aloft, her hair cascading down her be-surpliced shoulders, she presents the choirboys with a veritable icon of shapely beauty, an image of slender pre-Raphaelite splendour. 'What do you think she wears beneath her cassock?' one boy whispered, recently. 'Nothing, hopefully' replied the other. And although I cuffed the little whippersnappers firmly round the ear, I must say I was rather taken with the image they provided.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

More monstrous regiments...

Of course, what many people fail to realise is that the Church of England Synod had already voted to ordain lady-bishops. Yesterday's vote in York merely confirmed the decision and laid down certain conditions for the ordination of distaff-side. And I, for one, find myself wholly in agreement with that decision. I must also express my heartfelt support for the Synod's decision to reject the absurdity of so-called 'super bishops' (male, obviously) who - if created - would have pandered to the whims of those opposed to the perfectly reasonable proposal to raise a qualified and experienced lady to the ranks of the episcopate. Good Lord, we have enough problems already, what with flying bishops, suffragan bishops, assistant bishops, new bishops, old bishops, bishops with a seat in the House of Lords and bishops without so much as a stool in the House of Fraser. I realise that I am in a minority here in the cathedral choir; dear Lord above, we have our own battles looming with the female of the species in the form of a soon-to-be created girls' choir. But my own misgivings on the subject of lady vicars were allayed some years ago by sight of the lovely Lucy Winkett of St Paul's Cathedral sobbing gently at the flagrant misogyny of a fellow Canon. Which among us - without being possessed of a heart of stone - could fail to be moved by such a sight? Who could be blind to the attraction of having one so young and beautiful attending to one's sacerdotal ministrations? And who could possibly resist the temptation to let one's mind wander, just a little, whilst gazing up as the dear young ladies mount the pulpit to deliver their Sunday sermons? Not me, that's for sure! I just hope the rest of them are as good-looking.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008


So, the Joseph Rowntree-MacIntosh foundation has decreed that a salary of less than £13,000 per annum is what constitutes poverty in an advanced industrial economy. Poppycock! Balderdash! I mean, just look at some of the things 'they' claim one needs to stay alive, for heaven's sake: a moving television screen; digital wireless sets; mobile telephones; dvds (whatever they are). No mention of books, I see. Or pianofortes! Dear Lord above, one wonders sometimes how the other half lives. And what they spend their thirteen grand a year on! The Church, of course, is not known for its largesse; we choral vicars draw a basic salary of slightly less than half the sum that Mr Joseph Rowntree has declared to be the minimum necessary to keep oneself above the poverty-line. I have neither plasma wide screen television set, nor digi-radio appliance; as for the confounded nuisance that is mobile telephones - well, don't get me started! Why, only the other day a telephone rang in the middle of the Subdean's sermon. The entire cathedral chapter started fumbling in their cassock pockets, but to no avail. Eventually, the rather red-faced preacher realised that the noise was emanating from his pulpit. The Subdean took the offending article from his pocket, studied it briefly and proceeded to wind up his sermon in record time. Mrs Subdean, apparently, was sitting in the congregation listening (listening!?) and had texted him to tell him that his dinner would be on the table in precisely fifteen minutes.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Jolly good...

Looks like it's going to be another nice day...

Thursday, 26 June 2008

New balls...

Of course, it's Wimbledon again, and Rodney has installed a telly in the choir vestry. The fact that, deep within the bowels of the cathedral, TV reception is so bad that any chance of seeing the ball is as good as hopeless doesn't seem to matter. Rodney only wants to watch Tim Henman. 'But he isn't playing' Drane informed him as we were robing up for evensong. 'Didn't you know that he'd retired?' Rodney gave a sort of muffled shriek from underneath his surplice. 'Yes, but he's still on the telly' someone comforted. 'He's commentating this year'.
'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.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

The monstrous regiment...

The tenor's voice is spoilt by affectation, And for the bass, the beast can only bellow; In fact, he had no singing education, An ignorant, noteless, timeless, tuneless fellow.
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.’
‘Is it?’
‘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

Hocus pocus

I had hoped for a somewhat warmer reception from the Dean to my idea that we should follow Cardinal Hoya's fine example in Westminster on Saturday and introduce a little Latin here at the cathedral. But whilst my post-Eucharistic coffee went cold he proceeded to bore me with his liturgical critique of the Trindentine Mass, his opinions on the Second Vatican Council and, of course, the history of the Reformation. And by the time I got back to the vestry, all the biscuits had been eaten! Of course, my point (which was completely lost on the Dean) was that by reverting to the Vulgate we might once more have a Eucharist that members of the congregation from whatever background would understand. Instead, we're battling against old versions of the Lord's Prayer and simultaneous translations into Portuguese and Polish. Free movement across European borders is a wondrous thing, so how about a European language to go with it? And for ecclesiastical purposes we have one ready and waiting - Latin.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

God does not play dice...


So said Albert Einstein. But he didn't say anything about paper - scissors - stone, now did he?

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Can Bass 1: Fantasy Music List

Fantasy Music List

What ho, everybody! Can Bass here. Great news. Following a record-breaking choir rehearsal yesterday (the boy was, apparently, 'on a promise') we had rather longer than usual to thirst after righteousness in the Adam and Eve. Anyway, to cut a very long story short (I must be brief - I've got another student due in half an hour) after about the fifth pint somebody suggested that we might create an ideal music list, one the boy could simply 'cut and paste' when the Precentor next came knocking (one that we could could post of the cathderal website rather than the lamentable effort hastily assembled by the DoM when he is here). So, gentlemen (and ladies, possibly) here it is: Fantasy Music List. The blog you have been waiting for! The idea is that we 'sign up' co-authors from the blog-o-sphere, who can post their efforts on this site. I've no idea how you do that (one of the choral scholars did explain, but it was punctuated by his need to vomit and thus lost a little in interpretation). So, if you know how, do let me know. And if you want to, and I can, I will.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Harwood in a flat

What do people think? Seriously, I welcome your views. There are parts of this mass that I like, but to my mind it shares certain common characteristics with the fault identified by the Emperor Franz-Joseph of Austria in the music of that overrated automaton Amadeus Mozart - too many notes; it goes on for far too long. Did they not have to sit and listen to interminable sermons in those days? (Hermeneutics yesterday, in case you're wondering. Herme-bloody-neutics! I ask you!). Anyway, I apprised the young boy - the Assistant DoM - of my views whilst handing him a copy of my latest Missa Brevis - the one in D. He took the piece of paper, turned it over and then promised he would look at it with greater care - although I have my doubts. Since arriving here last year (after the rather swift and sudden departure of the previous post-holder) the boy has been a veritable beacon of musicality and support. On the few occasions he conducts the choir he does so with a clearly discernible beat; his rehearsals are swift and to the point; he comes to the pub and stands his round. But it has been noted recently that his mind has been 'elsewhere', shall we say. Twenty miles elsewhere actually, at the home of his new girlfriend. I have called at the Assistant Organist's rabbit-hutch now on several occasions, only to find nobody at home. The curtains have been drawn all day. His little green car has been missing. Well, we here in the Cathedral Choir are all 'gentlemen of the world'. Some of us have even 'been there, done that' as they say (though who the devil 'they' are and how they know is quite another matter). There was even, once, a Mrs Can Bass - she now live in Rotherham with a bookmaker. But I digress. As Senior Choral Vicar, it fell to me to 'pop the question', as-it-were.
'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


Whatever frustrations may blight the life of a musician, there is, of course, the daily privilege of being able to earn a (meagre, in my case) living communing with the great Gods of our culture - Bach, Schubert, Mahler, and Eric Wayman. Or rather, that’s the theory. But of course, as a singer, there is always the distinct possibility of waking up one morning with a sore throat, or a cough or something equally unhelpful. Thus it was this morning with my pupil, Tim.
'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.'
'Thank you.
‘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.'
'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... 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

To be honest...

I'm rather glad that term has started, and the choir is back rehearsing. We even did an evensong again on Tuesday - Hunt in D. Hunt in D, I say! Wonderful stuff. Absolutely wonderful. And coming up later on this term we have Arnold in A, Cooke in G, Jackson - that's William, by the way (1730-1803) organist and Master of the Choristers at Exeter - in F, and Walmisley in - no, not D minor - Walmisley in B flat. I can, of course, claim some of the credit for such luminaries of the English church tradition elbowing aside the likes of Howells and Stanford, having stood the young boy recently appointed as assistant organist a half of mild the night before he set about compiling this terms music list. I might also, inadvertently, have instilled a sense of urgency in getting the thing out before the Precentor - along with the rest of the Chapter - returned from their retreat. The organist, of course, was furious. But then, he's on sabbatical and telephones can always be put down. So we've a month and more of singing delightful - English - settings of the canticles. And anthems, too. Goss - The Wilderness (not that we would baulk at Wesley's wonderful sub-oratorio setting) and God is a Spirit, from the Woman of Samaria by dear, dear Sir Arthur 'Gilbert and' Sullivan. It promises to be quite a term.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Oh, alright then...

Further to my last post it appears not only that there are unfeasible numbers of people with little to do each day but spend inordinate amounts of time posting bloggings to the world wide cyber-net, but also that those who don't seem to spend an equivalent number of hours asking those of us who do questions. Thankfully, I activated the 'send an e-mail before a comment is published' button recently, so the questions about my current marital status and availability for rather dubious concerts and recordings have been spared my growing readership. But so many of you out there seem to want to try and guess my real identity that I feel duty bound to respond, politely, to at least some of your more pertinent questions. Besides, it's (still) half-term and there is precious little else for me to do. So, there now follows a selected list of questions accompanied by the most appropriate answer.
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

Who'd have thought it?

Who would have thought there were so many people in the world wasting their time as the most advanced product of evolution by writing stuff like this on the net? I know, I know – I’m one of them. But. But. Just look at some of the things I've found so far this week while inadvertently hitting buttons linked to different things on my computer. For instance, there’s a chap in the United States (where else) who lists his interests as 'The Lord, Holiness, forgiveness, and rock-climbing...' Another fellow I seem linked to by virtue of our mutual admiration for the works of Thomas Tallis claims his interests include '...Backpacking, and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and Their Strategic and Tactical Uses in a Post-Coldwar Geopolitical Climate'. I ask you? What manner of person is one rubbing electronic shoulders with? Would you, for instance, choose to be associated with the man from Colorado who describes himself as a devotee of 'Aquinas, Roman Catholic Natural Law Theology and early Church History'? The worst thing about it is that I can see little alternative, short of reducing the list of my favourite composers to those likely to be known only to a bass lay-vicar at an unfashionable Anglican cathedral. On the other hand this blogging mularky seems to do wonders for one’s longevity. Did you know that there is a 271 year-old Australian gentleman by the name of Pete posting regularly on his blog ‘I’ll Drink to That?’ And a 342-year-old lady from the States who seems to attribute her great age to a succession of younger husbands? In fact blogging even seems to promise proof against the grim reaper if the site of Cardinal Wolsey is anything to go by, although you'd think by now that he'd have better things to do than 'Pleasing the King and Outwitting France.' On the other hand, there are clearly some of us in blogging-land of taste, culture and discernment. What a pity the Most Honourable Irving Reginald Eustace Talbot Mountbatten, who lists his interests as ‘Gentleman’s Advice’ and ‘Governing Natives’ seems not to have posted since 2006 (although as his age is given as 105 there is probably an innocent explanation). And there seems to a rather sweet 26 year old Gemini from California called Kate who lists among her favourite music Osbert Parsley. I think I might send her a message.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Now what?

Half-term, a long lie-in, the Sunday papers (well Sunday paper - I could only afford to buy one so I went for the biggest, heaviest of the lot only to find it stuffed full of fashion tips and gardening advice. Given that I live in a basement flat without so much as a yard to house my dustbin the latter sections were completely useless; the fashion sections weren't much better either, although I managed to find a small piece on the latest trend in cottas). The trouble is, once you've done all that, you're stuck. There are no lessons on a Sunday and I've given myself the week off anyway, largely because none of my dwindling list of pupils is around for the next seven days. In fact, nobody's around. The choral scholars have retreated to their mothers for the week complete with bin-bags filled with dirty washing; my fellow choral vicars are mostly spending time with their respective families; the informator choristorum has just started his sabbatical (thank God) and the Chapter to a man is on retreat with the exception of the elderly sub-Dean who is literally left minding the shop whilst a succession of dismal visiting choirs attempts, unsuccessfully, to live up to our great building's acoustic. What does one do in such a situation? Watch the telly, I suppose. Except, of course, there's nothing whatsoever on. Listen to the wireless? The third programme, perhaps? Maybe for a while until the tone is lowered at six-thirty by that obsequious snivelling adenoidal Welshman Alan Jones. Dear Lord above, it's desperate, and it's only Sunday. It's enough to make one wish the choir were singing. Almost.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Responses, anyone?

So far this tiresome blogging thing has yielded a grand total of one invitation to sing the Nelson Mass and a solitary, tone-deaf singing pupil. Time to take matters in my own hands, so-to-speak. Either that or else be sucking up to Anthony eternally to stand me for a half of mild and buying up the out-of-date stuff in the local supermarket. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that. And so the other day I thought I'd try my new responses on the DoM.
'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

I See...

Or rather, I don't but he did. Who? Isaiah of course, in the year that King Uzziah died. Being Trinity Sunday yesterday, we had the big guns out so to speak - Sir John Stainer and his magnificent musical rendition of the day's Old Testament Lesson. 'I Saw the Lord' pom - pom -pom 'sitting up-on a throne' pom - pom - pom. Ah, they don't write them like that anymore! What a masterpiece of genius, second in importance only to the great man's beloved Crucifixion. And, of course, the piece ends with the plaintive hymn 'O Trinity, O unity'. For once, the combined efforts of Precentor and the Organista Magistratum succeeded in providing a most worthy and appropriate musical offering as part of the service. And what an offering! Nobody - especially that Austrian automaton Mozart - could have done it better. It was just a pity that the rest of the music at evensong was so unworthy by comparison. Watson in E, I ask you. Well I did, actually. I asked, nay, I demanded that the DoM explain. He waved me away with some drivel about the choir needing to conserve their energies for the anthem, but I caught sight of the oleaginous Precentor looking rather shifty at the pertinence of my enquiry. And we all know that the real reason was to make sure that the clergy were home in front of their tellys in time for Alan Ditchmarsh's programme from the Chelsea Bloody Flower Show. Couldn't do without their Sunday sermons though, could we? Couldn't spare us twenty-minutes incoherent quasi-academic ramblings? Oh no. No. If only we'd done something long, like the Howell's Westminster Service, and maybe sung an introit too. We might have limited the sub-Dean to about five minutes.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Oh God...

'Since it is so good a thing, I wish all men would learn to sing.'
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?

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Well now...

I'm not quite sure how this happened, but it seems I've had an e-mail. From somebody called Kayleigh. I'm not quite confident of what it says, but I would hazard that the young girl wants some singing lessons. 'Hi dude' the missive opens, 'cool blog. I wnt a sngng tchr. Ru cheap cos i cant afford much lol ;-). See ya.' James, the choral-scholar, cracked the code for me after evensong on Sunday. (Sumsion in G, in case you're interested - which I'm sure you're not - followed by the mighty and unnecessary noise that is the anthem, God Omnipotent Reigneth, by Charles Wood. If He really does then I feel sure that he's got better things to do at four o'clock on a sunny Sunday afternoon than listen to that cacophony.) Anyway, back to Kayleigh. I've invited her to my flat for a voice trial and I'll let you know, blog, how it goes. In the meantime I must dash - I've got the deputy head-chorister's cello practice to listen to, if you'll excuse me. Not a Cambridge doctoral supervision I know, but it pays me for a pint or two.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Anybody there?

Right - I think I've got it sorted now. I was musing during Dross in D or some equally unmemorable setting the other evensong on what my technie friend had told me. Apparently I must inform everyone that the blog exists in order for them all to look at it and comment. 'But that's the whole point of the blog' I said to him. As usual, he didn't seem to understand. I assumed that putting something on the web or net or into cyberspace would be enough. But no! I've already had to sign up to an e-mail that I didn't want in order to register the damn thing; now I've got to send a message to my friends to tell them all about my blog. 'And if I haven't got any?' I asked, not quite sarcastically. 'Oh, I'll give you some of mine' he told me. So, everyone he knows has now been sent an e-mail telling them about my new blog and suggesting that they read it. Apparently there is a lay-clerks web-site too, through which such things can be disseminated (although by all accounts they spend their days debating pointing or else arguing about the finer points of Sarum chant and the correct liturgical positioning of the Kyrie - I ask you?!). So anyway - word has gone out, and from now on I'll no doubt be inundated with requests for lessons, concert bookings and commissions. Come on now - you can't all like that Philip Moore stuff, can you?