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December 31, 2014


Thank you Beth for an informative look behind the scenes of clearly an amazing and talented group of people. It is obvious to see why this is an important part of your life. I hope we will be able to see you sing sometime in the near future!

Wonderful look behind the scenes. Hope you have a joyous New Year, Beth!

Looks utterly familiar, except that our choir is smaller and our Gothic church is smaller... And I dropped out of choir (at least temporarily) when I went to North Carolina for two months...

I know what you mean about those charmless spaces that one somehow develops affection for. Thank you for this look behind the scenes, which I truly enjoyed. How I would love to hear choral works in a grand church again some day!

A prelude to the sublime. In a sense, the more humdrum the details here, the better they frame what is to follow. But before anything else I have a query. In the foreground of pic 2 is a person with an Eton crop, wearing what we used to call horn-rimmed glasses. Immediately above, but in the background of the same pic, is that person's twin. Please explain.

Jargon helps and details help spring the imagination. Thus we have undercroft and cubbies and I'm immediately in a slightly different world: all specialists create their own lingo (doctors are the worst); it saves time, of course, but it can be a barrier to outsiders. As to your having cubbie 35 (Brits never bother with the hash mark) that's significant to me at least; I was born in 1935 - before a war, before nuclear bombs, but not before choral singing.

The descant sheets are laid out, you say, and this raises another question. Aren't they individual? Don't they carry pencil marks as reminders? Or is such vandalism forbidden? And I'm off down my own private alley-way, remembering how I once sang descants and how (I'm sorry; this is distinctly un-Christian) superior I felt, doing so. All from memory, all without any formal tutored skills; just the natural voice I was born with and which I was soon to lose.

And now we have a most telling detail - that singing dissipates energy, that fuel is necessary, and that Mary is only partially sympathetic to this fact.

And then a little aside on the community of singing together. I'm reminded of one of David Attenborough's most famous natural world passages. Sweating, out of breath, his shirt sodden he rushes through the jungle as chimps in the trees above divide skilfully into two groups to pursue, kill and eat another non-chimp monkey. He says something like this: "If we are repelled we must remind ourselves that some of mankind's greatest achievements are the result of similar groupings". And music is, after all, one of mankind's greatest achievements.

Stairs are inimical to music-making, for sopranos (and others) need their breath. And this too is marked (only in the imagination) along with the strategic leaving behind of bottles, on the wider, imaginary score that covers every event from entering the cathedral to leaving it, job done.

The organist adjusts his playing. Improvising here, but also on other occasions gee-ing up the lumbering congregation. I have heard this happen and marvelled but it's news to me that there are such persons as assistant organists who help pull the stops.

Finishing up with views from squat-towered Wells Cathedral, down in Somerset, which I passed by when looking for a town or city to retire to. Wells would have been goodish (if remote) but Hereford is better in cathedral terms, part of the Three Choir Festival (with Gloucester and Worcester).

Thanks for the insights of your public/private world, dear Beth. Although I can no longer sing descants I can sort of bumble on with a written equivalent.

Fascinating, Beth- so complex and interdependent. The quote from Ian Macleod-Jones provides a moving summation of the endeavour, and frames your own evident pleasure and hard work.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.