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!