A weekend dominated by rehearsal. In the hotel and in the flat. JRR and I were going to sing at the Highlander – my debut. Lyrics by John, based on a sketch by The Two Ronnies using three traditional Welsh tunes, unsurprisingly entitled A Welsh Trilogy – well we do an American and an African one. There’d been a session at John’s house which was really about finding the snags. Like getting the tune for All Through the Night and do we harmonise? The girls said no, so we split into two parts just for Cwm Rhondda. I downloaded the scores and a couple of videos, learned the words and got legged up with the rhythm of All Through the Night. John said it was a slow lullaby and not to get excited by dots. But you do don’t you? A couple more sessions in the flat and we were ready.
Early on Friday afternoon, the Greaves/Ray/Healey threesome were seen wandering along The Esplanade. Not simply taking in the view and the bracing Scarborough air, but trying to retrieve a wallet one of them had left behind at their lunch venue. They were successfully reunited with said wallet, but sadly, later in the weekend, that wallet or another wallet went missing once more. Good job they weren’t away for a fortnight.
I have a concern, shared with others, about messing with my choir filing system. I don’t willingly transfer scores from my master folder, so I take everything to Scarborough. Cumbersome but it safeguards the long term integrity of my system. The method of filing the came up in conversation. If the song title starts with the, do you file under t or the first letter of the second word? It’s the sort of thing that keeps you awake at night. No what about nicknames? Such as The Baker’s Song for I need thee every hour. Sadly, it could also apply to Christ is risen today.
Alan got into 6/8 time quite early on in the rehearsal and the length of a quaver, rapping and clapping it all out. I did hear the odd grump say ‘What is he talking about?’ Later there was some confusion between the tenor parts, something about writing music conventions and enharmonic. The Wiki entry is as follows – In modern musical notation and tuning, an enharmonic equivalent is a note, interval, or key signature that is equivalent to some other note, interval, or key signature but “spelled”, or named differently. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. And Rupert let him get away with it.
Talking about Rupert, he put his tablet on to charge (at the hotel’s expense) and it kept ringing a bell every 20 minutes.
I do attract the odd health issue or two. We have a gout club. There are the hypertension and joint replacement clinics. What about the worried drinkers? Then there are the relaxed laid-back drinkers.
The new pieces were:
Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines is the title song of the 1965 British film which is subtitled Or How I Flew From London To Paris In 25 Hours 11 Minutes. It’s a comedy set in the early days of aviation about a race from London to Paris with a £10,000 prize. The song was written by Ron Goodwin.
Crazy Little Thing Called Love was written by Freddie Mercury in 1979 while taking a bubble bath in his room at the Munich Hilton when Queen were recording The Game in Germany. It got to No 2 in the UK and was Queen’s first chart topper in the US. We first heard it in Cornwall but the choir who sang it wouldn’t let us have their arrangement, so Alan and Ray did it their way.
Cavalry of the Steppes. Music by Lev Knipper, lyrics by Viktor Gusev (1933). It’s a poem about Поэма о бойце-комсомольце, or Komsomol Soldier to non-Russian speakers, who proudly leaves his home to keep watch against his homeland’s enemies.
Kings of Swing. An Alan Simmons compilation, not the well-known orchestra of that name. Begin the Beguine, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Moonlight Serenade & Chattanooga Choo Choo. Robin Ray won’t have to learn the words. Not many people know this but Robin sang duet with Ron Atkinson aka Mr Bojangles. Very popular crooners round the Sheffield Clubscene in the 80s and 90s.
The guest turns were:
Geoff Gill explained the cross-fertilisation between our NE and SW France. Apparently the old French peasant in the corner of the bar with a glass of red has a double in Whitley Bay. The flat cap and beret are not the only similarities. Apparently your average garçon is partial to pigeons, whippets and nutty slack. Geoff illustrated this with a french rendition of Wor Geordie’s lost his penka. Musicologists regard this as a traditional song, composer unknown with lyrics by an unknown writer. No one knows who first performed it. So not a lot known about it then. Apparently versions are also sung in Belfast (marley) – penka alternatives in brackets, Glasgow (jaurie), Wolverhampton (glarney). It can be sung in standard English when a penka becomes merely a marble. Strangely a french version is not mentioned.
Tom Ashworth celebrated the life of a cartoon character who always bobbed back up after life’s reversals. Popeye the Sailorman, accompanied by ukulele.
Rupert Wilson started with alternative words to Begin the Beguine. Then two poems. The first, set in Africa, about ‘Smithers’, who had a stellar career in the army, sports and so on, only to be reduced to a 3ft cripple with any number of diseases. Apparently he told a witch doctor ‘to sod off’.
The second, three ha’pence a foot, previously performed by Stanley Holloway and Mike Harding, is a tribute to a stubborn Lancastrian who performed a remarkable feat of memory.
‘Ibbo’ was Ibbo, dressed in khaki shirt and shorts, rifle, Union Jack and topi. His repertoire included Soldiers of the Queen (written originally as a march to celebrate the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal), On the Road to Mandalay (an adaptation of a Kipling poem illustrating the nostalgia and longing of a soldier of the British Empire for Asia’s exoticism) and Mad Dogs and Englishmen (Noel Coward).
Steve Davies. One about a fox lamenting his role with the hounds. A really resonant voice. Is it changing and maturing or is it beer?
Ged Faricy. A lovely rendition of Our Wedding Day, arranged by Ronan Hardiman for Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance. Ged accompanying himself on clarinet.
(Long) Rod, (Happy fisherman) Dave and (Johnny Depp) Graham. Hearty, vigorous, salty, and antipodean. A great shanty first heard when sung by St Buryan MVC at Christ Church, New Mill. Originally a work song for a variety of trades such as wool and wheat carried by the clipper ships between London and Australia.
Andy Johnston. Two clever poems from the Johnston genre.
Richard Green. Two adaptations, one a hymn, the other a carol. Again clever and entertaining.
We had an impromptu birthday song or two for Judith, a friend or relative of Charlie, in town for a celebration. It was going to be a big party. We finished off the staff with Just George.
A standard session in the Highlander. My debut came and went. John said to look at him. He had to prompt me once and I recall a lot of noise. The audience couldn’t join in as they didn’t know the words. So there’s a learning point – sing something they know with not too many dots. I think my day job is secure.