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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Thursday, 31 March 2016

Going celestial

Imagine you've taken up cross-country jogging for your health. That your circuit includes a low fence you reckon you could jump over. Instead, each day, you step over it carefully, an irritating break in your rhythm. Then, one day, you fly over like an angel. This is a story in two parts.

Benjamin Britten's round, Old Abram Brown, is simple, written for children. It contains this line:

You'll never see him more.

The upwards musical gap between "him" and "more" is a big one (an octave) but is within my range. You wouldn't think so if you heard me. As I approach it, fear enters my throat. "More" squeezes out, a sound castrated. V has heard this hideousness for weeks and has guided me on other matters. Now it's time to cure my "more" fear.

Simple, actually. There's an "m" too many. By singing the abbreviated "hi-more" the ellision bounces my voice up where I want to be. Not only hitting the note on the button but arriving precisely and clearly back where I started, two bars later, an octave down.

V's delight reflects my exhilaration. Music’s gift! I get into my car for lunch at Abergavenny where I'm meeting VR and Professional Bleeder; we're booked at a restaurant that does liver, bacon and mash (Perfectly; they ask us how we want our liver done.)

I'm latish and drive too quickly, singing the round over and over through King's Thorne, Wormelow, Kivernoll, Pontrilas and Pandy, laughing at that previously difficult E. Then there’s more.

My throat, normally a system of slipping belts and rough-cut beams, has become elastically smooth and skilful, following much scale-singing that morning. For ten minutes I can tackle anything. I sing myself hoarse, banging on the steering wheel. Yeah!

8 comments:

m said...

Ok! Wednesdays are going to work!

Avus said...

I hope your long suffering passengers were suitably impressed, RR?

Roderick Robinson said...

m (strangely diminished MikeM): If those kind of leaps forward could be guaranteed I'd say yes.

Avus: I was alone. But not shorn of sympathy. Nothing would have pleased me more if VR had been able to join me in my regular singing lessons but she says she lacks a singing voice. This is not strictly true. Soon after we were married, in the early sixties, we took a tour of Scotland's west coast (in the wretched Austin Cambridge) and VR spent many hours teaching me to sing Sumer is Icumen In. Later, transporting VR's Gran from Walsall to her home in Dover, we sang hymns the gloomier the better (Lead Kindly Light, Amid the encircling gloom... was typical) trying to provoke Socialist Gran into profanity. Did so but only sub-voce.

"Long suffering" assumes my singing is crap. You may be right. The computer recordings suggest it's better than it was, but the difference beween zero and one may - for all I know - be infinite. How's your Gregorian Chant coming along?

Avus said...

I could not possibly comment on your singing voice, RR, since I have not heard it. I am full of admiration that you have started this tuition at 80 and note the pleasure you are getting from it. I have searched, locally, for Gregorian chant tuition, but no joy. All I can find are choir/religious groups in the Canterbury cathedral area. None seem to want a dilettante seeking to be absorbed for its beauty alone.

marly youmans said...

Strange how coming closer to demands and rules is so freeing--lovely description of breakthrough. Perhaps you will gift us with a podcast some day soon?

Roderick Robinson said...

Marly: It isn't a question of enduring the discipline, one has to embrace it, even love it. V is very good at showing that scales and other similiar exercises should be regarded simply as music in another form - something to be sung and (privily) a test of my seriousness.

A podcast. Blog commenters have been encouraging and this would be the best form of progress report. But for the moment my singing is strictly WIP and must be treated as such. Forty-four years of journalism have taught me to recognise well-meaning compliments (disguising private dismay) at a thousand metres. The literary parallel would be that of letting a member of the lay public read an MS in draft form. We'll see.

Lucy said...

I had quite forgotten about Old Abram Brown, and now feel an earworm coming on. It was a great kids' song, in fact, mournful to lugubrious, the long brown coat decidedly sinister, as well as the long single note building then suddenly jumping that octave...

And now I also want liver bacon and mash, cooked perfectly.

Roderick Robinson said...

Lucy: Sorry about the earworm, that ambiguous creature we both detest and - sort of - love. When I achieve Abram's octave properly I feel I have been abruptly shot - not from a cannon but a popgun. The hinge at the back end of my mandible can ache with the strain.

I have never previously been asked how I wanted my liver done. And this was in Wales, often regarded by those who live two-hundred miles to the east as primitive, even barbaric. They sing a lot in Wales but it always seems tenor-ish; where are the baritones?