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!