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.

15 comments:

Kevin Musgrove said...

I wish we'd thought of a ferret in our time of need.

These days I should imagine wearing your cassock back-to-front would be very frowned upon.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Ferrets are fine animals though a little "edgy". You'd want something more sleepy: dormouse, sloth, large tabby cat. Pelting a congregation with figs works on so many levels.

Kitty said...

"nor do we substitute the figure of the Christ-child in the nativity with a ferret."

I can honestly say that's not a sentence I ever expected to read. And yet now I have, I find I'm in total admiration of same.

x

susan s. said...

Our organist often worked 'How dry I am' into the Communion fill in music, if Sunday fell on January 1st.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Frog tells me that they worked "For he shall reign for liver and onions" into last month's Messiah.

Barry Teeth, Beet Poet said...

Me and Tel once went to midnight mass on the way back from The Crown, chinkie under arm, and some bugger was throwing figs at us as we had a last fag before going in. Was it you?

Can Bass 1 said...

Probably, dear boy. It's an ancient ceremony now no more allowed. You should count yourself privileged.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Father Ted, eat your heart out!

If only I'd known one of my favourite comedies was actually a documentary!

;-)

Did you have lots of fun laughing at the ecclesiastical fasion catalogues for the coming 'season' too as part of the initiation ceremony? I once accidentally purloined one intended for our Chaplain and laughed until I could hardly speak at the pictures therein! Was most appalled at the decline of standards though - no real wood for the lecterns these days. No big brass eagles or gothic candle-holders either.

scones with jam and cream said...

Dear Can Bass, lovely blog, and very thought-provoking. How do you get the ferret to stay in the nativity scene? Do you put special food in the crib, spread catmeat on the Virgin Mary figurine - or what? Love from scones xx

BS5 Blogger said...

What an interesting Blog! I liked your profile pic' too. Going to have a read and a look about if that's okay!

Brother Tobias said...

I'm sure my cassock would have looked much the same the wrong way round, apart from the run of buttons. I don't think I ever knew which way round the surplice was. I do remember that trying to access change for the collection involved questionable flashing-type manoeuvres - comparable to the problem of managing a kilt in a urinal.

Lehners in France said...

I do like the idea of taping piano keys together. Maybe you could teach me to sing when I return to the YUK. There may be another blog in it. Debs x

Hadriana's Treasures said...

There are still some great festival goings on in Spain which I still keep hoping they will import here. Nevertheless a nearby village, Allendale, still has its own flaming (literally) tar barrels ceremony to herald in the New Year Viking style. So unless the dreaded health and safety shut it down there is still hope for us yet!

Can Bass 1 said...

How very interesting! I am indebted to you all for sharing your ideas. Before I go, I will provide a few brief answers to your questions:
1) no;
2) it was the property of the verger;
3) the Dean & Chapter issued an 'ex cathedra' edict;
4) Mr Reginald Bosanquet;
5) apprarently it's origins can be traced to before the Reformation.
There. I hope that clears things up.

Suburbia said...

"substitute the figure of the Christ-child in the nativity with a ferret." I wish I'd been there!! Funniest thing I've read for a long time!!