How do I get myself into these things?
I stopped singing with the Muddlehampton Choir months ago. I have stamina problems at the best of times because of the ME, and the combination of their marathon two and a half hour rehearsals with the LACK OF A LOO so this postmenopausal woman can’t afford to sip water during practice eventually meant that while I never formally declared I was giving it up, I . . . stopped going. I can’t remember how much of this I’ve told the blog. I’d come home not merely exhausted but hoarse, wheezing, coughing and cracking. Nadia said that I had to drink water, and that I should experiment with when I could start drinking water and still make it home afterward. Ahem. These experiments were not a resounding [you should forgive the term] success. Ahem.
I was still dithering and not admitting that I’d quit when I met up with the Muddles’ membership secretary on the street in New Arcadia last summer who asked me hopefully if I was coming back some time. I moaned about the ME, the lack of a loo* . . . and also about the wheezing, coughing and cracking. She frowned thoughtfully and said that she’d wondered herself about the actual air in that church: it’s an old church, and could easily have weird motes and lung-inimical molecules floating around in it.
Well, for whatever assortment of reasons, good, bad and, er, muddled, I’ve slid out of the Muddles. I think about them from time to time. I’ve had a fairly cursory look around for other local non-audition choirs with shorter rehearsal times and on-site loos in newer, cleaner buildings, but I pretty much already know what’s available from the trolling I did when I joined the Muddles. The question of the choir I don’t belong to however has become rather embarrassing again with starting up voice lessons with Nadia: yes, I take voice lessons for fun, because I enjoy it, but my excuse, such as it is, is that I want to sing in a choir. I want to sing in a choir to a standard that will make them reasonably glad to have me there—hence voice lessons. Taking solo voice lessons however you are inevitably singing solo pieces, and Nadia has this entertaining habit of saying ‘Now, if you were singing this to an audience, you would want to . . .’ We both know it’s not going to happen. And I’m not sure but what singing is another one of those things—for me, that is, solitary crank that I (mostly) am—which I’m supposed to do with other people, like bell-ringing, and finding a church community to belong to**.
Well, there’s a lot of other stuff going on*** and I will worry about the choir thing later. Meanwhile I am still on the Muddlehampton mailing list. The beginning of this week there was an all-points email bulletin from our fearless leader, saying that the Muddles were going to be singing the Cantique de Jean Racine for the funeral of a retired Muddle member this coming Monday, at 12:30 in the afternoon, that he was short available singers, and any of us deactivateds who might be able to do it he would be very grateful.
I almost didn’t answer. Third-rate sopranos are two-a-penny and my acquaintance with the Cantique is not close. When he said anybody he didn’t mean me. But I know from bell-ringing what a ratbag trying to scrape together enough bodies for an in-office-hours event is . . . so I did write back, adding that if he wanted me to sing I would need to come to practise. He answered by return electron saying that he was, in fact, a tiny bit short of sopranos, and they’d be glad to see me on Thursday.
I had way too good a time, singing with the Muddles last night.† We practised the Cantique first, so us fillers-in could leave afterward. I was sitting next to Cindy, fearless-leader Gordon’s wife, and as we all put the Cantique down, I said to her, so, what else are you singing? And she said, oh, stay a little longer, and sing with us. So I did. Arrrgh. A bang-up arrangement of When the Saints Go Marching in and Bruckner’s Locus Iste which is one of my favourite things ever and it was like foie gras and champagne on a platter and I’m all AAAAAUGH. The rehearsals are still too long, the church is freezing cold and full of Malign Spores, and there is NO LOO.
I did leave at the tea break, but first I went (muttering, as above) up to Gordon to ask about Monday, and the soprano section. I was still clutching my borrowed copy of the Cantique, because I was going to go home and cram. Gordon had been doing head-counts at the beginning of practise, and I’d had an uneasy feeling that the sopranos for Monday were, indeed just a tiny bit short. Just. A tiny.
I said to Gordon: There are three of us, right?
He looked at me with the expression of the outflanked general about to earn a posthumous Victoria Cross, and nodded. But I’m going to call in some favours, he added, bracingly.
Three. Sopranos. Including me. One of them is a perfectly adequate amateur choir soprano. One of them is a very nice woman who makes virtually no noise audible to the human ear. I used to sit next to her. There is the occasional distant hum from her general direction, but that might also be the ancient church wiring.
How do I get myself into these things?
* * *
* It confounds me that the average age of a Muddle is probably the high side of fifty . . . so here are all these menopausal and postmenopausal women and I’m the only one who has trouble keeping her legs crossed for two and a half hours?
** Probably not including monks.
*** Gemma, Niall and I were handbelling tonight, and Gemma was talking about the quarter peal she and I had rung at the abbey last Sunday. I said that I’d thought it was a bit naughty of them to pitch both of us in together: yes I’ve rung several quarters of bob minor, but none recently, and I’m a terrible abbey ringer, and the likelihood of my being able to hold my line against someone bumbling through their first quarter^ is not good. Someone ringing their first quarter should have a good STABLE band around them. Okay, I worry too much, and we got the quarter, which is all that matters. And then Gemma, who unlike me picks up methods easily, said cheerfully that she thought that they’d put us in together because they were anxious to bring us on toward strengthening the abbey band. EEEEEEEEEP. I think she said this to be encouraging, but it makes me want to run away to sea.
Also, supposing you read the footnotes where they appear in the text, keep reading. I am running away to sea twice.
^ Remember that Gemma has been successfully shoved into all kinds of fancy methods I haven’t a prayer of ringing, but at the expense of some of the basics. Like bob minor. This does mean she’s likelier than a beginner to bumble successfully through a method she’s had insufficient practise on, but it still seems to me a little unfair.
† Their new musical director, whom I had not met before, gives us warm-ups, which Ravenel never did: he expected us to arrive ready to go. This new chap, furthermore, gives us warm-ups I have written down in my notebook from lessons with Nadia. So he is clearly a Person Who Knows.
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