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Wednesday 3 May 2017

Rather marvellous

For the record, V and I didn't dress up
On January 4, last year, I had my first singing lesson. Yesterday, some sixty lessons later, I shared - imperfectly but recognisably - my first duet. Always my greatest aim.

Not just any duet: "Bei Männern" from Mozart's Magic Flute. Where Pamina (a princess) and Papageno (a birdcatcher), still lacking their intended but off-stage lovers, sing yearningly that "it is through love alone that we live".

Quite, quite difficult, but then, uxorially, it's a sentiment I feel I can share:

Its (ie, love's) high purpose clearly proclaims
There is nothing nobler than woman and man,
Man and woman, and woman and man

But something must be resolved. Soprano and baritone sing different tunes simultaneously: V's voice is more tuneful, powerful and confident; even throttled down it can pull my less positive voice off-track.

So V starts off humming.Things combine and she switches to quiet lyrics. I'm still in tune. V's volume increases and I continue to sing what I'm supposed to. At the end we're both going full blast. Ah, yes.

Ironically the listener gets the best deal, hearing the two voices united. For me I recognise the voices are in step but (given a head full of my music) they are separate.

A recording is technically beyond us. Here's how it should SOUND.


  1. How delicious! V must be pleased, and you--well, the little vessels in your brain are full of air, and your feet may possibly be floating very slightly off the floor. Congratulations!

  2. Marly: Mille grazie! Vielen Dank!! Je tiens à vous exprimer mon gratitude pour votre gentillesse!!!

    Ah, ces pauvres Francais. Toujours les syllabes.

    I'd say pleased as Punch if, from a very early age (and long before the principle was articulated), the behaviour of Mr Punch hadn't encouraged me to support feminism.

    There is another idiom involving pigs and their waste products which is more apt.

    True, true: the little vessels, the sense of floating. The fact is I write because, like Martin Luther, "Ich kann nicht anders." - not least because I need words to convey my responses to music. But making music - its precise technicalities, its infinite opportunities for failure, its immediate and checkable proof of progress, and those magnificent moments when you realise you're one-tenth of the way there - is an overwhelming experience for my ninth decade. I might even consider myself blessed if that didn't raise the awkward question: who's doing the blessing?

    And yes V was pleased. As I left Mount Olympus she said. "Well done, you." Never give the cat too much cream.

  3. Punch is astonishingly wicked! Poor baby. Poor Judy. I expect children loved it, back in the day, and roared with laughter.

    "Well done, you." That seems so British.

    I like this John Muir quote about song (and related to the old music of the spheres idea): “When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with the other stars, all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” So there you are, a singing fleck in the infinite storm!

  4. Marly: Re. "singing together as one". The possibility of belonging to a choir crops up. I can see how thrilling it might be when I watch something like Mahler's Symphony For A Thousand or (for me) the oh-so-familiar Messiah. My official line is that I might if certain conditions were met. But secretly...

    It has to do with my age and my attitude towards music. I accept that I started very late in life and I may never achieve a vocal tone that pleases others. Also there is a peculiarly selfish delight in coming to terms - on my own - with masterpieces by the great names of music. To remain a perpetual soloist student might seem a cop-out but wrestling with difficulty and intermittently creating tuneful sounds can be rewarding in their own right.

    Despite this I can respond to Muir's "flying through space with the other stars, all singing and shining together". OK, I may not be shoulder to shoulder with other singers, but as I sing others do too, throughout the universe. Though separate I am a part (however inexpert) of a musical community.

    As you say "a singing fleck in the infinite storm". I thank you for that.

  5. If you were in Cooperstown, all the church and community choirs would be hounding your heels, you know...

  6. Marly. Never took Cooperstown seriously. They award golden gloves. Ever tried to field wearing one?