It’s a great pity I didn’t LEARN TO KNIT a few months ago. The Octopus and Chandelier rehearsals kick into high gear on Sunday, and we have a six hour dress rehearsal in—I think it’s a fortnight. Six hours?? The sad truth is that the back row of the chorus doesn’t have enough to do, and rehearsals were making me kind of crazy, and Minnie, our fearless director, has let me off the last two, on the proffered excuse that I was getting the music from Oisin and could learn the back row of the chorus at home.* This sounds quite plausible. Except for the ‘getting the music from Oisin’ part, which greatly resembles getting two blog posts from Oisin.** I’ve been reduced to writing him menacing emails. He punished me for this discourtesy today however by making me WAIT for my cup of tea while he printed the pages off. Tea . . . tea, I said feebly: it was already late, Oisin having had a funeral to play organ for***, and if I don’t get my second mug of serious tea by 4 pm I start blurring around the edges. Mwa ha ha ha ha, said Oisin.
But if I knew how to knit, I’d have something to do for the five hours and forty-five minutes of the dress rehearsal that they don’t need the back row of the chorus for. I’ll probably try to read, which means I’ll get home and discover that I haven’t taken in anything except a vague sense of the passage of words, with a lot of ‘a’s and ‘the’s and I can’t remember what else. Although I suppose if I took knitting I’d come home with a lot of dropped stitches and strange lumpy . . . things.
Meanwhile . . . I told you that Niall and I had hatched a Cunning Plan. I don’t ring quarter peals because of the ME. While—as blog readers know—I get through a remarkable amount of stuff in an average day† I have no stamina, and I never know when I’m suddenly going to have to sit down in the middle of whatever. At the computer this is not necessarily either tragic or conspicuous, although I’d probably have fewer superfluous clothes†† if sale catalogues, on line and off, weren’t a favourite retreat during phases of brain mush.††† On the end of a bell rope, you’re in trouble, and so is your band—and people tend to mind losing quarters, when they’ve turned up to ring one. But I miss ringing quarters—I particularly miss the spectacular practise opportunity a quarter is: forty-five minutes of the same method. A ten-minute touch on practise night is good going.‡ So I’ve kept muttering to myself about practise quarters—where the goal is forty-five minutes of the same method, and if you get a quarter out of it, great, and if you don’t, you just ring as many touches as you need to fill up the forty-five minutes, depending on how many times you break down. You can put the woman having her ME moment on the treble or the tenor as necessary: my autopilot, after six years of tower ringing, probably just about is strong enough. And it’s way less pressure, and less-good ringers (including those that don’t also have ME) have an opportunity to ring too.
I’d begun to think that perhaps my opportunity was coming round at last, because New Arcadia used to ring a lot of quarters and now rings hardly any‡‡ and I have been able to watch Niall getting increasingly twitchy and a few of our other ringers perhaps a little wistful about this. So I brought up the idea of practise quarters to Niall the other night in the car‡‡‡ coming home after handbells and he went for it.§ First stop: a conductor. We tackled Colin about this last night after handbells and Colin, who is not only a bell junkie but probably too nice for his own good§§, thought about it for a minute and then said that he thought it was a good idea, and he’d be happy to conduct. Second stop: permission from our tower captain and tower secretary, who is Vicky. We approached her (one does not tackle Vicky) tonight . . . and in hindsight I think she agreed too quickly. Our idea is to have a practise quarter once a month on a set day, like every third Friday before ordinary practise, but Vicky, with perhaps a fell light in her eyes, is suggesting that we sometimes have them . . . on Sundays, like our old service quarters, as if for service. No, no! we say. If we’re ringing a quarter for service, it has to be a good quarter. Oh, says Vicky insinuatingly. If they’re not commissioned, they can just be ordinary quarters, that would be fine. And then Niall, with an even more fell light in his eyes, says, well, maybe on those months we could have two practise quarters . . .
I may have created a monster. Stay tuned.§§§
* * *
* Note that the back row of the chorus doesn’t move around or anything. Presumably we will be told when and where to come on and when and where to come the hell off—and adjured not to trip over or break anything which I have to say is worrying me a lot more than the music is.
What I am aware of carefully and painstakingly not thinking about is the whole on-stage thing. I’m the back row of the chorus! Barring throwing up or going off in fits, no one is going to notice me. Also, we mostly sit down, so the white knuckles and the rubbery knees should be inconspicuous. But . . . even the back row of the chorus has to come on for at least one curtain call, don’t they? Do I have to smile? Ewww. I should so not be doing this. It’s all Oisin’s fault. I told him we needed a nice little singing group. Twelve or so. I’ll sing anything from high baritone to second soprano as long as there are at least eleven other people around.^
Or maybe it’s Blondel’s fault, for not bursting out laughing^^ at my first lesson and telling me to go home and . . . learn to knit.^^^ Or Blondel’s for leaving. I’m still waiting to hear from my second new voice teacher, that the kitchen refit is complete, and she can get into her studio again, or whatever. If a second singing teacher spurns me I’m going to start developing a complex.
^ There are reputed to be eight in the back row of the O&C chorus, if we were ever all there at the same time. Eight is enough when there’s all this nonsense going on stage front.
^^ Speaking of providing good laughs. See below.
^^^ You realise that I spent years coming away from bell practise threatening to give it up and learn to knit? I only stopped saying this . . . probably when I started wrestling with Cambridge. If you’re trying to learn your first surprise method, you’ve come too far for frivolous comminations. But this empty threat clearly had some protective quality, and now . . .
** Minnie is married to him. She knows what he’s like. Never mind. She probably got a good laugh out of my foolishness. I wouldn’t deny a good laugh to the director of a small local theatre society in the middle of rehearsals for a new show.
*** He came in to me picking out another of my strange, crabbed little tunes on his piano. I’ve got sheaves^ of manuscript pages of strange, crabbed little tunes^^ scattered all over my piano. I hadn’t realised till I said it to Oisin today that the reason for this is that as soon as I put them on Finale they become serious. And PEG II is so dedicated to kicking me in the head that at the moment I’m a complete wuss about giving anything else the opportunity to behave similarly. Sigh. The music I write is a lot more legible on Finale.
^^ For a variety of instruments. Including organ. Oisin told me today he’s finally getting ready to order the manuals—the keyboards—for The Beast. But he’s planning on buying the wrong ones. He’s trying to placate me with a lot of whining about cost.+ I am not moved.
+ We’re talking the approximate difference between Third House and Kensington Palace. All right, all right. It’s not my bank account. But a woman has her (slightly bizarre) fantasies. Yarn pets? One of these hand-crafted-by-enchanted-goblins organ manuals would be a fantastic pet.= Or rather, three, since Oisin needs three of them. We could name them. . . .
= I wonder if anyone has tried to yarn bomb an organ.
† I don’t think I actually know what an average day is.
†† Is a cute little cashmere-blend cardie ever superfluous? Discuss.
††† I can somehow still punch in my credit card number. Damn.
‡ Although a ten minute touch on service ring morning is a generous plenty, thank you.
‡‡ Chiefly because service schedules got juggled, but I suspect also because even Vicky has an upper limit on the amount of hassle she wants to go through organising quarters.
‡‡‡ You will doubtless be relieved to hear that the driver’s door has been reattached and the gremlins chastised.
§ I’m so persuasive. No, he’s so a bell junkie. I’m a little anxious that there’s going to be some quid pro quo in invisible ink in the contract, however, concerning handbells. I’ve rung four handbell quarters so far and none of them voluntarily.
§§ Ask his wife.
§§§ There are towers who ring quarters every week—I know one or two that ring two every Sunday, for morning and evening service—but we don’t, and we don’t really have the ringers. If we go from the occasional quarter to two quarters a month it will be a lot. Well, I think it’ll be a lot, and I’m in the firing line.
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