View from near the Rear

“It is perhaps hard to realise the immense strain that the second basses are under…” (Views from the Rear – chippingnortonjonnie, Sun 19 April).

Though recently posted, Chippingnortonjonnie wrote his observations on the plight of second basses in an age that we will learn to refer to as BC(2), when there was an appetite for whimsy. These are tricky times and of course we have more to stress about, but I think we need to keep whimsy alive, perhaps by wearing T-shirts – ‘Save the Whimsy 1’.

So it is in this vein that I say to second basses, staying on a single note and counting to more than 10 whilst holding a score, it’s a big ask. We first basses feel your pain. We Too.

It’s never a bad time to be kind, to reflect on what we feel but too rarely say; so now’s the time to sing it loud. They are good people these second basses; a little introverted, but thoughtful and always considerate. They may growl, but like a pet spaniel, it’s all show. Deep down, which is their natural milieu, their tails are, as it were, always wagging. And just because they greet each other with nothing more elaborate than a barely perceptible movement of the head, it doesn’t mean they are without extravagance. They are just cautious about showing it, possibly as a result of something that happened in their adolescence. Who knows…..deep as they are.

And as for their sensitive voice boxes, well wouldn’t yours be?

The wee lambs.

They overheat. Don’t we all, but that’s not why they open the back door – don’t be taken in. They want to open the back door because, in truth, they would rather be outside. It’s their happy place, where they can gather in their own way, discussing a recent smorzando in bar 127 and engaging in some mutual grooming, perhaps picking a bit of fluff of one another’s collar. Happy.

In the words of another:

How do you tell an extrovert second bass?

They look at your shoes when they’re talking to you

Just saying….

Don Quixote

Continue Reading View from near the Rear

Views from the Rear

It is perhaps hard to realise the immense strain that the second basses are under constantly during rehearsals and in concerts.

We can hear the elegantly voiced tunes from the sopranos; the frighteningly accurate and harmonic pulse of the altos; the stratospherically cultured pitch of the tenors; the Italian ice-cream inspired baritone of the first basses; and then us.

We smile confidently when we have to sing a pedal note especially if it is 90 bars long as it gives us time to get to the same note together over the first 45 bars. It means we do not have to worry about our breathing (the small apostrophes above the relevant bar written with one of our seven pencils – each). We can now confidently look at Peter for a disturbingly long period disrupted only by the sudden realisation that the pedal note should have stopped 20 bars previously.

We have learnt to lean slightly right as the altos often have our note but become distracted by the haircuts of the first basses and tenors and their remarkably co-ordinated ear movements (especially the unshaven ones).

Yet we are not without mischief. We are the ones that boo quietly when the tenors win the raffle. We are the ones who fling the back door open to cool our strained voice boxes only to be thwarted by those of a more temperate nature and disposition. We are the ones who pretend to swap places at half time. We are the ones who scan our musical copies to see if the double basses and cellos can give us our notes on a regular basis. We are the ones who cease singing during the warm-up when notes drift past the ceiling-limited sanctuary of middle C.

And yet we feel we belong. ‘Gravitas’ is our watchword and we are the foundation on which all other voices descend although in the words of other authors and not I………

‘Never invite a second bass to look after your dog when you are on holiday. They will either fail to find the key or come in far too early or far too late.’

Just saying…………………………….


Continue Reading Views from the Rear


Oh No! In an otherwise eggs-emplary performance, one naughty tenor has missed his cue..

Qui tollis frittata mundi..

Happy Easter.

Stay safe.

Continue Reading Eggs-ultate!

Sounds bearly pawsible!

Dear All,

I hope this finds you all safe and well and enjoying the sunny spell of weather which feels welcome indeed. Spring is certainly getting sprung and apparently the blackbirds, taking advantage of a little peace and quiet, have started singing to each other again!

There is no pawcity of rumour that the bears aren’t doing too badly at co-ordinating their efforts either: reports have been pawing in that the ‘Bear Hunt’ has become more literal than intended. It appears a number have subsequently gone AWOL and there have been sightings of marauding bears apparently looking for suitable picnic sites.  Indeed, I caught my little fella red-handed (or more accurately orange-pawed) plotting his escape to the park with a jar of my old Ma’s best thick cut…

… the bear cheek of it!

Not only that but they have apparently (following hints from the Man at the Front) been popping up in songs and major choral works unannounced all over place. Nicky Coldstream told us:  

My bear is an inept watercolour painting stuck in the front window, because all my childhood bears have mysteriously gone AWOL [Ed’s aside – have you looked in the park Nicky?]. But, a propos Peter’s search for music with ‘bear’ in the title, I can produce a bear in the text, which had me muddled until I was well into adolescence. I couldn’t think who the ‘holly bears’ were and what they had to do with blossom.

She also admitted how her five-year-old self lustily sang ‘garden sinners reconciled’ [and quietly she still does]. Well – thank goodness they were!

With reference to a major piece David Fitt suggests:

I’m doing phonics lessons for my grandchildren on Zoom, and we did the -air sound this week. So from a musical point of view I thought of “Night on Bear Mountain”, and taking the dog for a walk in the fields this morning I thought that a choral version would be best represented by the massed voices of “Sheep may safely graze”. Do they bleat in B?

Its lovely to hear from folks so do send in any quips or capers that bear repeating! We can expect a tenor themed artistic piece on Easter Day I believe, followed by a bass mono-blog from our very own ‘chippingnortonjonnie’ sometime next week, so watch this space and in the meantime stay safe, keep singing and be sure to keep following that time-old government advice:

 Wishing you all a peaceful and happy Easter!


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blackbirds-1024x806.png

Continue Reading Sounds bearly pawsible!

Bear Hunts

Those members who, like us Ascott mob, live in the villages – and possibly other locations as well – may have noticed a sudden (pre)ponderance of bears around.

The idea began with some Facebook posts circulating between communities, to give bored toddlers (and their frantic parents) the opportunity to go on a ‘bear hunt’ in their locality.

So our village – and I’m reliably informed by Eric, his village also – has embraced this, and bear shaped silhouettes are now visible peeping out from amongst the trees and gardens and watching from windows. For my part, I found my daughter’s old graduation bear who is now on sentry duty and my company bear (sporting a tee-shirt for the imaginatively named Brian Leach Consulting) is keeping watch in the tree in the front garden.

If, that is, he hasn’t fallen down yet.

Bears on Parade – mine (left) and Eric’s (right)

Tall bears, short bears, some younger, some older, well-loved bears, dashing bears, adventurous bears, elegant bears, scruffy bears, slightly portly bears, huggable bears, bears sophisticated and disreputable, bears full of character and, it has to be admitted, the occasional Thread Bear.

When taken together, not, in all respects, looking entirely unlike a certain Bass section.

Bearly credible..

What is the collective noun for an ursine choir – a Roar of Bears? A Rumble of Bears? A Cacophony of Bears? Perhaps a Conundrum of Bears? Hopefully not, like crows, a Murder of Entries!

I wonder whether they would be avidly watching their conductor bear.

And what would they be singing?

Bearlioz, or Bearnstein perhaps.

Make up your own..

Continue Reading Bear Hunts

The Self Isolation Choir sings the Messiah – 31st May

Hi Folks,

Following on from my e-mail earlier in the week here is some more information about the Self-Isolation Choir and its performance of the Messiah next month. Just follow, or cut and paste the link:

The choir had its first rehearsal (of 8) last night and it was great fun – and very well attended with over 1000 singers joining from all far flung corners of the world. It was lovely to see some names from CNCS floating past as I gaily crooned along to the Hallelujah Chorus and no doubt greatly entertained the neighbours with the Alto line!

Further rehearsals follow this week and please don’t worry if you’ve missed the first couple – you can easily catch up online.

I hope to see some of you there soon – in the meantime keep safe, stay well and keep on singing!

Warmest wishes – Julie

Continue Reading The Self Isolation Choir sings the Messiah – 31st May

Live Piano Streams

Susannah has suggested the following (clicking either link at 2pm on Saturday should take you to the live stream)

2pm UK time Saturday 28 March

Deutsche Grammophon marks #WorldPianoDay. In the label’s tradition of recording the world’s greatest pianists, we present live performances from living rooms around the world. Confirmation coming in from Víkingur ÓlafssonMaria João PiresJan LisieckiKit Armstrong and many more…Stay tuned! #StayatHome

Continue Reading Live Piano Streams

Update 24th March

As per our members’ mail, we’re pleased to announce Rossini is now only postponed! Plans are to have the concert on Saturday October 17th 2020 – situation permitting. In the meantime – here’s a non-musical challenge to while away some time today (courtesy of Innocent Smoothie social media) …

Arrange your herbs and spices in order of how full they are.

PS Just hang on to your Rossini scores (and keep gently practising!)

Continue Reading Update 24th March

Coronavirus Update 16th March 2020

Unfortunately, based on current advice, it has been decided to cancel the Rossini concert in April and suspend rehearsals until further notice. Choir members will be notified by email when the situation changes. Updates on how you can ask for help from the choir will be posted here shortly.

Continue Reading Coronavirus Update 16th March 2020

End of content

No more pages to load