and the notices at the break didn’t ruffle many feathers. They’d several charity gigs before the summer holidays and Lyle explained the arrangements, ’They are free to the ladies except the golf club. That’s £10 a head.’
‘What?’ muttered Bob.
Tony reminded everyone about sponsoring the poor cyclists.
Then it was Dilwyn’s turn, ‘Things are moving fast boys,’ he stared at the back wall, as if picturing something, ‘we’ll soon be making some interesting announcements.’ And that was it, no details. Dyce wondered how many knew what Dilwyn was on about. Not many by the look of disbelief on Lyle’s face.
Dyce watched the small groups form and reform and mutter. The choir’s equivalent to the smoke-filled room. It was gossip, a chance to moan. But Dyce knew that sooner or later it would find a voice and become the murky vortex of cloak and dagger into which Dilwyn would fall.
‘I did hear something about us making a video, but the budget was a bit steep.’
‘Where do you get all this stuff from?’ asked Bob. Boyd winked.
Dyce spotted Dilwyn and Lyle in conversation. Lyle was on edge. Was he trying to pin Dilwyn down? And Dilwyn always one jump ahead. Dyce then saw Lyle pass what looked like a letter to Dilwyn. Dilwyn read it carefully. ‘Rubbish,’ he said. Dyce didn’t need to be a lip-reader. Was it wise to pass on bad news at that time? Was there ever a good time? Or had Lyle had enough?
‘What was Dilwyn talking about? Any ideas?’ Bob and Bill were at a loss and Dyce no wiser.
A piano chord sounded.
Dilwyn watchers like Dyce and Boyd took pains to analyse the great man’s entrance to the rehearsal room. At that moment they knew whether it was to be one of ‘those’. Had Dilwyn had taken sufficient tranquillisers to calm the effects of their singing and questioning?
On good nights, Dilwyn entertained the choir with stories about the opera, complimented the singing and was gently self-critical. One of his favourites was Skye Boat Song. He’d the fanciful idea that ‘Over the sea to Skye’ was a long way, a substantial journey requiring preparation and not to be undertaken lightly or frequently. So he’d been to the west coast of Scotland to see for himself. ‘Imagine me at the Kyle of Lochalsh,’ he shrugged, crestfallen, ‘ The bloody toll bridge and Skye less than a mile away.’
There were more bad nights than good. There was a slow deterioration. Dyce reckoned Sarah a good pianist. However, if Dilwyn thought she’d played a bum note or got the rhythm and dynamics wrong his eyes would reach for the heavens. Dyce could see that Sarah was doing her best to please, but didn’t know how. She smiled less and less, appearing increasingly uneasy as Dilwyn’s conducting became more pointedly directed at her. Then she didn’t come – gone the way of Cedric. Not entirely true. She came one final time to receive flowers and a gift and left before the rehearsal started.
Turning up late was bad. On on occasion, three of the choir, including Dyce, entered the rehearsal room during the warm-up, separated by two or three minute intervals.
‘What time do you call this Dyce?’ shouted Dilwyn, ‘that’s two of you now.’ By the time the third arrived, Dilwyn was steaming. Dyce couldn’t remember what was said, but it was a mild-mannered man on the receiving end.
Questions intensified his irritation. Replies were put-downs. As if he was affronted; as if his musical pedigree was distrusted. The brave ones persisted. The rest kept quiet.
Eventually you weren’t a proper member of the choir unless you’d been balled out by Dilwyn. Sniggered about in corners. Talked about behind hands. The choir had adapted and Dilwyn had lost touch.
This series of difficult rehearsals eventually came to a climax. The Dilwyn watchers could tell something was brewing. He was late, didn’t say hello, even to the new pianist and spent a lot more time than usual shuffling paper around his briefcase. He conducted warm-up on automatic. Complained about minor problems with the singing. It turned out he was waiting for one of the baritones to talk when he shouldn’t or ask a question or anything that Dilwyn could have a go at. So it happened and Dilwyn went into orbit, ‘I know what’s going on here. Don’t think I don’t. To think of the amount of time I’ve put into this choir and for this to happen. I’ve received a letter, passed on to me from the committee. It’s not signed. Whoever sent it hasn’t the decency to write to me direct or let me know who they are. But I know who you are.’ Dilwyn looked straight at Bill in the second row of the baritones and read out the letter. What followed wasn’t pretty. Bill tried to explain that a letter had become the only way for choir members to express a concern or an opinion. Dilwyn wasn’t listening. Bill walked out followed by ten or so others. Dyce had a moment of clarity – the levels of tranquillity were no longer about the music, they were about mutiny.
Next rehearsal Dilwyn didn’t attend. Someone came in off the bench. Dilwyn was considering his position and having a month off.