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.