Saturday, 1 January 2011

In which the herald angels sing, but I - alas - am not one of them

Those of you who know me will be aware of my enthusiasm, bordering on fanaticism, for all things choral prior to the arrival of Mr B in my life and for some little time after his advent. He is an excellent musician himself and as sympathetic to my vocal activities as anyone could well be. Nonetheless I must confess I was sensible of a degree of constraint, perhaps bordering on annoyance, when my choral commitments forced him to book a date some weeks ahead in which to propose marriage with all the due decorum and romance which a gentleman of his temperament would naturally prefer.

Ah, the halcyon years of singing with the Philharmonia Chorus! And then the chamber choir for which I had the honour and joy of expending some small administrative effort. Both were occasionally productive of little difficulties, but looking at the overall account, enriched my life to a glorious degree. Some ten years of my life, while resident in the metropolis, were dominated by singing and its corollary activities - such as touring northern Italy to sing Verdi's Aida; singing Haydn's Creation at the Vatican; trying to sing a whole song (Dashing Away With a Smoothing Iron) a third too high at Shiplake, including two modulations up and a male section 'corpsing' openly in performance. I have been fortunate indeed to have been deemed worthy to form one of such groups.

With such an explanation, I now propose to slightly paraphrase some words from the opening of a work by one of our most renowned American cousins, Miss Alcott. "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," Miss Alcott's rebellious Jo declares. For me it would be "Christmas won't be Christmas without any singing." While I can give up 'Classic Carols at the Albert Hall' albeit with a small pang, there is one omission at Christmas which I actually could not endure. If I do not get at least one opportunity to sing 'Hark, the herald angels sing', I feel as though Christmas simply hasn't happened. By the bye, the genesis of this seasonal musical gem is explored by the splendid Mr Russell Beale in his programme.

Thus, in spite of the difficulty of attending rehearsals and my own parlous lack of singing practice (which now dates back to the birth of the Infant Phenomenon, sigh) I did participate in a carol service in the week before Christmas. Words cannot express my dismay at my complete inability to sing in tune. I have since tried to persuade myself that this inability originated largely in a perfectly appalling head cold, which has dogged me for some weeks now and in fact is only just passing. I could scarce hear myself. But that is no excuse. There is NO excuse for singing flat.

As Miss Alcott's Meg says "It's so dreadful going flat." Well, perhaps she might have said being poor, but it's the same kind of thing.

And I add, as does Mr B, a most happy new year to all our friends, family and well-wishers.