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.