I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The thrill of DIY music - part two

There is a cheaper, less arduous way of creating music and that’s to sing it. Even better, sing it in the company of the others with someone to direct the rehearsal and to impose discipline during the performance. Briefly I was a choirboy in a parish church and at evensong the choirmaster used to lean out from his higher-level seat and smack the heads of those who were misbehaving. My mother, who was usually in the congregation, said the crack of his hand was far more disturbing than any minor fussing by the boys.

I enjoyed singing but was too young to reflect on why. I wasn’t given to accepting instruction or restriction anywhere else so I assume it was something to do with music’s secret impulses which this blog hopes to explore.

I wrote a sonnet about this for the previous blog. No doubt those who noticed it then will accuse me of gross duplication. In my defence, I have improved three of the lines.

Sonnet – Wednesday night practice

The darkened nave entailed a womb of light
Gilding our boyish group. Standing, we sang
The Nunc Dimittis, Angels ever bright,
Stainer – all proof our church was Anglican.
My task was simply this: to recreate
The notes with an unthinking treble voice.
I soared the heights towards that aural state
Where music is a licence to rejoice.
Fatigued by descants, holding volume low,
I left betimes starved like a refugee,
Ate Marmite toast then, drowsy, let things go
Dispensing with the evening’s ecstasy.
Oh wasteful child who lost that gift along the way
And deeded me this false reed in decay.

ONE FROM MY SHELVES OK, a small part of this is technical but the rest is hard-eyed , witty and revelatory


  1. How ruefully poignant this sonnet reads now from before, though I liked it then, too.

    Is it my imagination, or has changing your blogonym altered your personality a bit? Your blogging personality, I mean?

    There is a difference here in the tone of your posts and responses, Lorenzo, mi amore, as if the British reserve of your former incarnation has opened the door to the graceful Italian charm of Signore da Ponte.

    Or, could it be because you are now devoting your blog to music, one of the great loves of your life?

  2. The Crow: I think it has and I hope it does. One pernicious aspect of being BB was that if I imagined I'd been neglected for a while I could rush out a crowd-pleaser. There were simply no restrictions. Unfortunately this unchained sense also extended to the comments I scattered about which led me to over-doing it, as we saw.

    Music is a huge subject but even the lesser pieces, such as the ones here, require some discipline. Once I get into my stride and try to tackle harder stuff - communicating the nature of music as I see it - the need for discipline will grow. Although I will do my best, and employ lightness wherever possible, the blog is likely to become predictable and the interest will drop away. Not everybody wants to be "taught" even though I am hardly qualified to be a teacher. In any case I will be the one who's doing the learning.

    Although this is a very grandiose comparison, there are parallels between Blest Redeemer (in which a woman searches for redemption which will arrive in a form only she can recognise) and this blog (which has a sort of self-improvement theme). All this sort of stuff sounds ridiculously pretentious but, to be brief, I think you're right. "Who would fardels bear?" asks Hamlet. Tone Deaf, if it works, will be a willingly assumed fardel (ie, burden).

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Choirboys amaze me, how they can be so rapt about, almost possessed by what they're doing, at such an age and stage, when concentration and submission to rules and general seriousness is not the norm, and the sound that comes out of them seems quite impossible too.

    There was a radio programme a while ago about the early boys choirs, and how maltreated they were, half-starved, otherwise uneducated, not given any discipline or other training and when their voices broke, more or less thrown out on the street without a future (in England anyway, where the castrati option didn't exist). It was Victorian reformers who protested about this and developed and elevated the role of the choir schools.

    Did you read music when you sang, or was it just by repetition? I liked singing as a child but foundered later as just not musical enough. I very much liked that poem before; the mourning for a lost gift undervalued when one had it is very poignant.

  4. Lucy: I hope you were able to approach Tone Deaf without the technical irritations you mentioned earlier. As far as I can see, these have been cleared up.

    You touch on a point that the sonnet doesn't address and which will recur as long as this blog continues. How does music's appeal arrive? Imagine these vapid, barely sentient lengths of gristle, who would otherwise be listening to Dick Barton, Special Agent, turning up voluntarily for practice and (even less likely) for matins as well as evensong. One thing I'm pretty sure of: they weren't answering a religious call.

    My dear Lucy, you flatter me. I can't read music now let alone then, although I can infer one or two things from a score. As a choirboy I did everything by ear. This is quite surprising on reflection, since throughout my brief tenure we rehearsed a quite longish oratorio or cantata by Stainer, huge tracts of which I was able to sing by memory for years afterwards.

    What I can remember is how hungry I was after choir practice, hence the Marmite toast.