Tuesday, 10 February 2009


Of course, when I questioned the necessity of choral conductors in my last posting on this site, I was referring specifically to our own rather talentless DoM. There may be others of that ilk who perform their duties without the histrionics, without the flailing of arms and jangling of song-school keys, without the scowls and the tut-tuts, and most importantly of all, without the complete and utter obfuscation and annoyance of the singers, who are worthy of that title (although I'm bound to say I haven't met many, and in my humble and unsolicited opinion the vast majority are no more than charlatans, poseurs and megalomaniacs, but there we are).

Consider just a few examples:
Mr Harry Christophers, conductor of 'The Sixteen'.
When not swishing his crimped coiffure from side to side, this chap seems to regard conducting as a series of arm-swirling whooshes, rather in the manner of those Chinese dancer-chappies with their ribbons. No wonder members of his choir don't look at him. But then, he doesn't know that. His eyes are always closed.
Mr Stephen Aloysius Cleobury.
Another whirling dervish of a choir director, although of necessity rather more retrained than Mr Christopher. And why does he look so bloomin' miserable? The man has the cream of English choral youth at his disposal (not to mention the English clergy) and yet his lugubrious expression and drooping jowls give the impression of someone trying desperately hard to stay awake, or at least hold back the tears. And we are not, gentle reader, referring here to tears of joy.
Dr Philip Moore.
Actually, Philip Moore is alright. But what of that other chap, John Scott-Whitling? Has anyone ever looked so uncomfortable conducting? Actually, yes - our DoM (who must remain nameless) but enough of him. It seems to be that Richard Scott-Whiteley should remain in the organ-loft, along with the rest of them. Apart, maybe, from one.
Rodney. Ah, dear Rodney. I told you that my comments weren't a blanket condemnation of the entire profession. Rodney, Rodney, Rodney. Latent homosexual, snooker fan and conductor - par excellence - of the Wilchester Choral Society. Rodney knows how to wield a baton! And I would, of course, be honoured to be following his beat in their next performance - of Vaughan-Williams Sea Symphony. Now that takes some conducting skill.


Nota Bene said...

Oh no...I prefer sweeping generalisations. Never let the facts get in the way....

Gadjo Dilo said...

It sounds a delightful world, one way or another. But does being a snooker fan really help one's conducting technique??

Working Mum said...

I'm a little disappointed at the conspicuous absence of female Musical Directors in that last. Simply have to put forward Jill Henderson-Wilde; conductor of the Manchester Chorale and all-round genius of the art of conducting rowdy bunch of keen amateurs and shaping us into a world class choir!

Kevin Musgrove said...

I always assumed that the lunatic choral conductor was protecting the choirboys' modesty. If you're a self-conscious lad in a surplice it's a mercy to have some hyperactive loon on a rubber rope distracting all your relatives from your performance.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Yet I find myself trusting your catty brand of Christianity so much more than those of ecclesiastical incline who pretend to think goodness, sweetness and light 24/7! Keep up the good work CB1!


All you need now is a cat called Elgar!

Rob Clack said...

We joined Cambridge University Music Society specifically to sing the VW Sea Symphony and the Holst Hymn of Jesus, and had to put up with Mr Cleobury. Not my favourite, by any means.

My dislike was accentuated somewhat by a black stand-in who was just soooo much better. A real pleasure to sing for. Sadly, he was only there once.

David Cynan Jones said...

I used to sing for a similar DOM (former Aedis Christi Organ Scholar). Most of the time I think that he thought that he was conducting the Berlin Phill. Nobody took any notice of him, only at the end when we used to allow him to conclude the piece so that we finished together. Can Basses would have a perfect excuse on sunny days as the sun would stream down into their eyes. His exagurated swipes were only broken by his attemps to replace his "comb over" parting. As he processed back to his perch in the organ loft you could see the stress pour out as he trudged back to the safety away from the stand. I agree with your assessment of SAC, what a waste of time. I used to love going to King's and heard the choir with the likes of Michael Chance and Simon Halsey singing Alto, Charls Daniels and Mark Padmore tenors. Gutsy singing, but now limp. Keep up the good work and blogging

chorale said...

Ah for the good old days! The only activity during my treble days, which might at a stretch be called church choir conducting, was a discreet flick of the senior bass man's finger-tip, sometimes echoed on the other side by the merest nod of the head-choirboy's head. For a really dramatic musical moment, the organist, if visible, might perhaps lean into his keys with more serious intent than was normally observeable.
I'm sure I didn't just dream all that, did I?
Chris Baker - Durham UK