Views From the Rear – a valediction

I resisted the temptation to search the World Atlas for an appropriate desert island to escape to, as I realised I hate sand, detest coconuts, am appalled by palm leaf thongs and wouldn’t know where to plug in my record player.........

The impending departure of ‘The Man At The Front’ meant that I would lose the only face you can actually see from the back row although I know Chris cuts a fine lateral visage. It seemed a moment of reflection was required and some decisive action needed to soothe the sorrow despite knowing that the society will remain an immensely strong advocate of all that is good about music and friendship.

When you have run out of rudeness directed at the first basses and especially at the ‘fivers’, you sense it is a time for change and so it is. The view will now not be ‘from the rear’ but ‘of my rear’ as I depart for the warmer climes of Berkshire to be nearer the irascible devils commonly known as grandchildren. I still won’t miss Bernstein, Britten or any other composer who sees amateur singers as fair game and easy prey to disrupted rhythms and tongue-twisting words! Multi-tasking is a big ask for the second basses when you have to sit, stand, look up, turn over a page, scribble with a pencil, rub out with a saliva-covered digit [forgot the rubber] and sing, count, go loud, go quiet, enunciate in a range of languages, all in a space of minutes. ‘Sor foodness gake’ as the grandchildren say.

Yet that awful sense of real loss creeps in. An ever-smiling and un-endingly positive committee; a diverse range of immensely talented, amusing, friendly people [and the ‘fivers’]; a sense of purpose; a sense of real achievement; a sense of musical challenges never beyond our grasp [thanks Peter]; a sense of the value of an HB pencil; a sense of the world of professional musicianship from the willing souls that accompany us; a sense of ‘team’; and above all else a sense of gratitude to all those that have gone before and those that will follow to maintain the wonderful world that is Chipping Norton Choral Society.

My ears forgive the sopranos for everything above top ‘E’; my heart jars arrhythmically at the accuracy of the altos; my disdain for the ‘fivers’ mellows with a secret admiration for their work [and their vocal range!]; my anger softens towards the melodic, harmonious and word-perfect first basses; and my love and affection remains for the double-bass ‘secondo basso’ songbirds who adorn the back row with warmth, humour and occasional accuracy. At your next concert cast your eyes over the assembled masses of the audience. You may spy an ex-second bass, silently humming along; spotting who isn’t looking at the conductor; seeing you all from the front for the first time; and knowing he will never forget his precious times with the choir. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay singing and above all else remember your pencil!

Just saying..................................                                                   

chippingnortonjonnie

Continue ReadingViews From the Rear – a valediction

Views from the Rear — chippingnortonjonnie

I simply cannot remember the last time I sang. No longer does the bath soap jiggle off the side taking the pumice with it or the shower gel fall from its cage because of my deeply resonant renderings of Showtime classics. The sombre nature of ‘things’ seems to weigh heavily in our hearts as we reflect on the trials and tribulations of our nearest and dearest family, friends and colleagues. We wish them strength and dignity in all that they are currently facing.

And yet – thank goodness for ‘The Man At The Front’ (the answer to the crossword clue!). Such diverse and inspirational material that stimulate the grey matter and keep the real sense that we will ‘meet again’ and sing. As a youngster (!) needing to Google ‘CD’ to see what it means/is/was I am immediately drawn to Eric Idle’s great classical rendition of ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’. If it was good enough for the 2012 Olympics it is good enough for me – although ‘solo’ it may be, ‘choral’ it may not. You also wonder how long you would have to isolate on a desert island to play your CD. 10 days maybe presumably avoiding Friday?

I am told that one of the great casualties of COVID-19 has been common sense. We justify our bubbles; we convince the thousands of new walkers that we are following the rules whilst wondering what they are doing in our village; we wrestle with the moral dilemma of reporting our neighbours; we do the dodgems in the local supermarket; we tut at exposed noses; and convince ourselves we couldn’t possibly be in a vulnerable group. We long for an end to it all.

So if we ignore Eric Idle and you can still take eight gramophone records on to an isolated atoll I would choose:

  1. Tippett – A Chill of Our Time
  2. Walton – Belshiver’s Feast
  3. Williams – A Sea Symptom
  4. Howells – Hymnus Parasiti
  5. Elgar – The Dream of Germontius
  6. Strainer – Coronifixion
  7. Bruckner – Locus Isolate
  8. The Police – Don’t Stand So Close to Me

Let Peter know about your hidden gems. My LPs all ended up as flowerpots; my EPs as place mats; my cassette tapes as cassette tapes; and my CDs as nouveau wall art. Who or what is Roy Plumley? Sounds like an old English apple.

Just saying..................................

Continue ReadingViews from the Rear — chippingnortonjonnie

Juliet’s singing fund-raiser

With the prospect of gloom overshadowing many people’s Christmas, I contacted over 50 people in my village, Ascott-under-Wychwood, with the idea of carol-singing from one end of the village to the other.  I had a core group of some 20 willing songsters and split them into groups of six, for eight different occasions, mostly in the evening and including two at Sunday lunchtime at the pub.  Some people sang on more than one occasion (I did all eight...).  It was a great joy to see people come to the door to welcome us.  Many joined in with the carols – all jolly ones – and especially rewarding was to see children brought to the door to witness carols for the first time, as well as the elderly who left their cosy front rooms and deep chairs.  People were tremendously generous and over the whole period we managed to collect a fabuous £570.00 which has gone to the Oxford University vaccine research department.  Bravo!

Needless to say I lost my voice, but it was worth it.

Juliet H

Continue ReadingJuliet’s singing fund-raiser

Views from the Rear — chippingnortonjonnie

Christmas is coming and yet I seem to be rotund
Time to be more serious about the stomach quite prof’und
If I haven’t got a clue how to slow the swelling ‘me’
If I cannot find a diet then my feet, I shall not see

I think I’ll blame my dog for the doubling of my size
We’re both fed up with the same old walks and it is no surprise
That we find all sorts of reasons for putting off the strolls
When you can stay at home by AGA-side devouring bacon rolls

And I am one of many that prayed the pubs kept serving
To cut my thirst for home-brewed ale with measures quite unnerving
And as for slimming recipes whose contents are so vital
All mine seem to have some chips embedded in their title

Yet Basso Profundo that I am, I need a resonance box
So why not keep it above the belt away from the Christmas socks
The financial stake in my sizeable paunch is significant and what’s more
It gives me somewhere safe and sound to rest my Messiah score

If I go thin, I’ll have to join the Fivers at the front
A depressing thought for a fulsome bass but maybe worth a punt
I then could reach some notes so high it would really stretch belief
To sound like a slightly nauseous thrush whose stomach needs relief

But these are just the ramblings of a singer most frustrated
That he cannot share his love of song – musically castrated
The fun, the joy, the shared intent, determination unbending
Who misses friends, the challenge, the tunes [but not Belshazzar’s ending!]

So, here’s to you all at this time of year, please keep your voices going
To know that we will sing again without the lockdown showing
It may be Bach, it might be Brahms, it even could be Mahler
[Let’s hope it isn’t Britten again whose rhythms are much harder]

But hark.......

New Year is coming and I seem to be much thinner
Time to keep the focus sharp on what I have for dinner
For I want to be in perfect shape to start the songs with vigour
It’s the only way I can focus on my voice and not my figure

Stay strong, stay safe, stay singing

Just saying..................................

Continue ReadingViews from the Rear — chippingnortonjonnie

Views From The Rear — chippingnortonjonnie

I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky
I left my copy of Rossini there, I wonder if its dry.

No – not Masefield or Milligan. Just a lonely second bass who has now relegated himself to fourth bass due to a serious lack of vocal activity since March. Can you blame me? I wait on every word from the wonderfully energetic and supportive committee hoping against hope that we may resume our endeavours.

But alas – aerosol particles of indeterminant size seem to be our warders as the poor old scientific community battle it out with the virus and sadly, often amongst themselves. Yet as the eternal optimist I took myself and other related bubbles off to Cornwall for a week of sun, sea and pasties only to find most of the rest of England down there trying to avoid the extremes of Storm Alex and insulting the locals by daring to choose the cheese and onion pasty option.

And worse – with the freedom of the first of October, allowing their varied genetically modified and uncontrollable canibus to leave multiple petite messe [!] solenelle all over the once occupied sand. I ask you!

It was not all gloom and despondency – far from it. High on a hill in the bright sunshine you could watch all of the ‘Doc Martin’ fans stroll around Port Isaac itemising all the significant buildings and places of accidents/illnesses. Instead of buying them to enhance your singing, you could wander into a local gift shop and actually talk to a real Fisherman’s Friend [lovely modest guy too] and if all else fails you could count how many people had put a facemask on their dog – I joke not!

You may start to pick up a sense of mental anguish from these comments but rest assured dear reader they are just deflections from wanting to add further scurrilous comments about the first basses or fivers and yet I have to admit I miss them dearly....

So having used up all my RSPB & RNLI jigsaws, read all my outstanding paperbacks, painted every piece of garden furniture ready for the winter [even washing all the covers], hoovered the car and made endless buckets of stewed apple, I leave you with the daily wonder of crosswords!

Solve this if you dare: Troubled punter, the boss [5,4]

Just saying..................................

Continue ReadingViews From The Rear — chippingnortonjonnie

‘Life Without’ by Keith Ravenhill

Life Without .......

The barriers are up to keep us safe and free
From an enemy we cannot see
We make plans to finish jobs started some time ago,
Anything to fill the time on our hands
But it’s not the same as it was only yesterday
What is missing, what is the gap that needs to be filled?
Why do I feel lost, what is on my mind diverting it from the job at hand?
Searching for an answer I look to see where can I find a clue
Another view
A path to enlighten my mind that is stuck in empty space
Maybe there is something new, something exciting
In the society website perhaps someone has been writing?
With a sense of purpose I enter the internet to see
Is there something to grab my thoughts with glee?
I find that “The man At The Front” has something to say
Words of wisdom that points the way
Interesting thoughts that lets me know
About Hemiola, wow that’s new to me
I count to three
Then two, I try clapping, I’m hooked
It’s music and singing that is missing.
My voice has lost its chords, it’s grumpy and growls
It’s angry with me for not trying to fill the gap
Then I find the links to funny songs, beautiful groups singing
I have to clap
Wonderful sounds
Virtual singing groups a great idea, what a boon
Roll out Zoom
But oh dear, fun with meetings with everyone talking
Then all stopping, being polite, silence, then some starting
Confusion, we need a “Man At The Front” to bring in voices
Who’s next?
Can’t wait to meet again, not just voices
People, friends and fellow singers
The joy, pure pleasure to be one of many
With one aim – to sing as best you can.

Continue Reading‘Life Without’ by Keith Ravenhill

We welcome your blog contributions

Your Committee welcomes contributions to the blog* from the choir and these will be posted in Members’ News. These can be in any form and should be informative or entertaining – ideally both. As a guide, they should be around one-and-a-half pages of A4 and can be prose or poetry. You might like to copy a link to something relevant or a piece of music (see Peter’s blog of 20 May).

Contributions should be as Word documents or pdf if you prefer and should be emailed to our secretary Julie Harris (jules2harris@outlook.com). A small sub-group of the Committee will act as editors in order to ensure the blog hits the right notes in terms of tone and suitability. The blog will then be posted under the contributors’ name or under a nom-de-plume as they prefer. Blogs will be reviewed annually just to keep the site refreshed. Your contributions, musings and meanderings are warmly invited!

*We are using the generic term, which is an abbreviation of the rather awkward neologism “weblog,” literally “a log of activities that you make available on the web.”

Continue ReadingWe welcome your blog contributions

Views from the Rear — chippingnortonjonnie

Just when you think all our energies must be focused forward on the junior basses and their partners in crime, the Fivers (clearly their real value), up pipes a confused and befuddled second bass who doesn’t realise we spend our whole time in a distinct and permanent feeling of self-isolation. Why does he think we are placed at the back near the exits?

Apart from mistakenly identifying the source of ‘slander’ (don’t shoot the accordion player – he doesn’t even live in Chippie!), words are then used such as ‘gusto’ and ‘aplomb’ when surely ‘windy’ and ‘gaucheness’ are more accurate descriptors? We are the Sancho Panza on a donkey to the Don Quixote on Rocinante in the serried ranks before us.

Are we now the political spectrum of the choir with naughty boys to the right and accomplished singers to the left? The Bullingdon Club versus Momentum? No, my friend. How can anyone be part of the second basses when they only get ‘one bar wrong’ consistently? Have we ever ‘nailed’ anything apart from our Oscar-winning performance (once) at the Chipping Norton Music Festival?

I await significant [and I trust anonymous] input from the ‘other’ sections. Fake news used to trump [!] banter from the second basses always welcome.

Just saying..................................

Continue ReadingViews from the Rear — chippingnortonjonnie

End of content

No more pages to load