How do I get myself into these things, continued
So, you all remember Gemma shouting to Albert last Sunday service ring, ROBIN CAN BE IN THE CHOIR! —? It has not been a great week* and I managed to forget that the [local ringers’] guild Christmas ring and mince pie fest was today. To the extent that I had an uneasy sensation I might be singing in another choir with insufficient back up I thought it was next week. Now the reason I hadn’t responded to the initial email to the entire guild saying that Leandra was in charge of putting together a choir for the Christmas service was because I wasn’t going to go because I had an OPERA.** And then, last Sunday, Gemma told me that they had had NO responses—and that the choir as presently constituted were Leandra herself, Albert her husband, and Gemma’s husband and son who aren’t even ringers, but they’re both singers and they like carols.***
I have an opera, I muttered, feebly.
What time does the opera start? said Gemma briskly.
Five-forty-five or thereabouts, I said, feeling the ground crumbling beneath my feet.
You can come with us, said Gemma. We’ll get you back in time. ALBERT—!
Well, that was Sunday. Sunday was a long time ago. Leandra is an alto and the world is rotten with third rate sopranos they DON’T NEED ME. I made the mistake of not cancelling handbells on Friday and Gemma bounced through the door and said, Nicholas [her husband] has declared that we must have a rehearsal, so we’re all meeting at our house at 12:45 tomorrow.
Wha’? I said intelligently.†
For the choir, said Gemma, still bouncing.†† Remember? You’re in the choir for the guild Christmas service tomorrow.
Whimper, I said. Has Leandra found any more bodies?
No, said Gemma. But it’ll be fun, she added.
Why is it going to be fun? I said. Why aren’t you singing? I added—suspiciously.
Oh, heavens, she said. I don’t sing at all.
I stared at her. She didn’t look shifty. There are people who don’t sing at all. Niall, for example. At that moment I wished I was one of them.
See you tomorrow, I agreed broken-spiritedly on parting.
I was only about ten minutes late getting off this morning††† but . . . gridlock. Frelling frelling frelling I hate the whole commercial Christmas thing.‡ I finally arrived, raving, forty minutes late, to the comforting-but-not-in-a-good-way news that Albert and Leandra had only got there about five minutes before me, for the same reason. So we had twenty minutes of rehearsal which only proved to me that terror makes me squeak, and I already knew that. I don’t read music—I go home and I figure it out—there are way too many British versions of Christmas carols that I don’t know at all, and I can barely say my name on pitch if I’m doing it by myself and some frelling musical human is trying to sing HARMONY.‡‡
It’ll be fine, said Leandra. It’s just to make a show.
It was a beautiful day, just by the way. It would have been a beautiful day to take hellhounds on a long walk through the fields and forests beyond Ditherington or Warm Upford. I stared out the window of Gemma’s car and tried not to moan.
There was ringing first. It was a ground-floor ring with the wretched font in the middle of the circle, bristling with knobs and excrescences that you could see having a snatch at your rope if it swung too near. There were also a lot of civilians standing around watching us ring . . . and as I stood there pulling on a rope I thought, and in a few minutes I’m going to be the only soprano in a cough-cough choir of five people.‡‡‡
Well. I lived. We all lived. Leandra made Gemma come stand with us§ in the ‘choir’ because six would look better than five. True. And I heard the occasional small piping noise from Gemma’s general direction. And we had a good organist which makes all the difference, and it’s not like any of these were anthems, we were just supposed to be leading the congregation, hahahahahahahahahahaha. And, for better or worse, you could certainly hear me. I was making a noise. I was TRYING.
Because—warning: gloppy moral follows—this was finally the point. It would have been pathetic not to have any choir. I knew when I said ‘see you tomorrow’ to Gemma last night that I’d just agreed to miss the opera.§§ But occasionally you have to do something badly to do it live, you know? To be a person with other people even if that involves singing when you’re not Anna Netrebko or Natalie Dessay. To get out there and support your team. The vicar thanked us, and I thought yeah, yeah, you’re a vicar, but Gemma said later that he’d meant it: that he’d said that he would be leading several carol services and it was nice to have other people up there on stage with him.§§§ Gemma was going around with a notebook and pen and taking names for people we can hit up next year. We need a strategy, she said. The blanket email approach doesn’t work. And in the car coming home I said, and next year we are going to have a proper rehearsal . . .
* * *
* I cancelled handbells on Thursday because I was feeling so mouldy. That’s serious. But I dragged myself to choir practise. I’ve only just started again, I can’t also start missing immediately. I was even thinking I could maybe get out of it if I emailed Gordon, they are sure to be chiefly practising carols for the carol concert that I won’t be in because I have an opera that day^ . . . but I decided this was a bad idea, and besides, I like singing carols^^, so why not. So I went. And I FROZE TO DEATH^^^ but . . . it was okay. Oh, and we didn’t sing any carols. It was all about the concert next spring, which I don’t at this point have any excuse to get out of. HE’S MAKING US SING O WHEN THE SAINTS [go marching in] WITHOUT THE MUSIC. HE’S EXPECTING A LOT OF POST-MENOPAUSAL WOMEN TO MEMORISE AN ENTIRE PIECE OF MUSIC.#
^ prospective irony alert
^^ Second prospective irony alert
^^^ I brought a hat. AND I FORGOT TO WEAR IT. Well, my brain was cold. Clearly I need to knit a beret. It should be harder to forget something YOU MADE YOURSELF.
# I think the under-40s and the blokes can do this one by themselves.
** Note that I’ve already missed the first Met Live I booked for due to the exigencies of puppy digestion.
*** Also, Gemma can be very persuasive. Apparently sometimes her family also decides it’s easier to say okay, whatever.
† Niall, who is one of these people who genuinely can’t carry a tune in a paper bag^, may have snickered.
^ Although why anyone would want to carry a tune in a paper bag has never been satisfactorily explained
†† People like Gemma can bounce while sitting quietly in their chairs.
††† This TWO SHIFTS OF DOGS thing is a bogglefrag. And Pavlova turned four months old yesterday, which means she’s up to fifteen minutes of walk a day.
‡ I swear it’s worse this year. Of course this is the first year I have had to drive to my bell tower, inconveniently located in a big town with lots of shops. And meanwhile my head and heart keep exploding on account of this being my first year as a Christian. I carom from hysterical loathing of the advertising babes in low-cut Santa suits and the Make Your Own Chenille Reindeer kits^ to a sudden sharp consciousness of Jesus as a baby and . . . ::explodes::
^ There are some remarkably dire Christmas knitting projects out there.
‡‡ It was . . . even rather frustrating. I could have learnt probably any of it—even the blasted descants—this is not difficult music, it’s all very straightforward stuff for little amateur choirs—most of it I probably could even have learnt well enough to hang on to what I was doing in spite of those frellers singing harmony. But I can’t do it by sight and I can’t do it cold.
‡‡‡ Nice friendly cooperative bells though, even if the two does long to tip off the balance in the wrong direction. If I didn’t overpull this wouldn’t be a problem. But it was also a nice ROUND ringing circle, you know, circular, unlike the dratblatted ringing queues at the abbey, and I made it through a touch of bob minor and a plain course of Stedman doubles as if I knew what I was doing.
§ Nanny nanny boo boo ya boo sucks
§§ Un Ballo in Maschera. Sigh. I did listen to it on radio 3, but I would have liked to see Dmitri Hvorostovsky. And Gemma did get me back in time. But I had hounds and a terror to hurtle and the ME was already snarling at me in a decidedly unfriendly manner.
§§§ I both totally get this and slightly wonder if maybe he’s in the wrong line of work.
Please join the discussion at Robin McKinley's Web Forum.