It was going to be a really bad day.** The ME is using me as a punching-bag again*** and I got out of bed in stages, saying, it is Monday, and I am going to my voice lesson. I am going to my voice lesson. All I have to do is crawl to the car, unlock the door, and put the key in the little hole. Wolfgang knows the way.
It has been a really bad week for—not for singing, see previous about singing for sanity, but for attentive practise, so that I don’t feel a total fool going to sing for Nadia.† After my voice slammed shut on me last Monday—which was actually rather alarming—I gave it two days off anything but folk songs and Leonard Cohen†† . . . and then I had stomach flu and all those deep breaths and gut-disturbing diaphragm action for singing seemed like a pretty bad idea, although I could (maybe) stop worrying about the slamming shut, which was probably germ related. †††
I did sing over the weekend—a little—and I noticed at church last night that I was making a noise.‡ But this morning, warming up, I felt like I’d Never Seen Any of This Music Before in My Life‡‡ and did not set out for my lesson in a very positive frame of mind.‡‡‡
But fate and body parts are often perverse little creatures. I don’t even know how to explain what happened; if I try it’ll sound like gibberish to non-singers and will probably make those of you who would understand what I was talking about if I could explain it properly fall down laughing. The point is I made what Nadia herself called a Technical Leap Forward having to do with waking up the ‘mask’ sinuses and persuading all the various bits and pieces—tongue and soft palate in particular—to clear out of the way and let the sound resonate. Gleep. And she took me up to the high B-flat I need for both Batti, Batti§ and I Want to Be a Prima Donna—I didn’t know it, of course, although I knew we were getting up there—and which I do erratically have at home when I’m focussed on not paying attention and shutting myself down because I Can’t Possibly Do That, so I know the frelling thing exists. And as she pointed out, grinning, I sang it with no strain and no muscle tension. It’s the lack of tension that was so astonishing—she said, yes, your support has come a little adrift, but we can fix that.§§ You’ve made real progress today.
And . . . golly . . . you know . . . I may yet make a singer.
* * *
* Although everything is relative. See next footnote.
** It’s been a bad hellhound day for weeks. With the very, very occasional exception, Darkness more often than Chaos, neither of them is eating. The only reason they haven’t starved themselves to death by now is because I keep force feeding them. They haven’t eaten a scrap of anything today, voluntarily, for example. This is utterly demoralising for me even when the ME isn’t bad. It’s not the taste of the drug; they get three meals and only two of them are dosed. If they are having a unique nauseous reaction to this stuff—nausea which lasts through the third meal—that would explain it, but I doubt it’s that simple, and neither the vet nor I can ask them how they feel or why they’ve decided food is the enemy.^ Meanwhile although their output is improved it’s still far from . . . um . . . a neat pick-up so we persevere. Wearily.
^ Although if it were that simple, anorexia in humans would be less scary and less difficult to treat. I remind myself of this sometimes, on my knees beside the dog bed, stuffing cold sticky food down recoiling hellhounds.
*** I did survive^ my first official Samaritan duty shift, thank you for asking. It was a relatively quiet night which given that I was not at my best is probably just as well,^^ although I need some demanding shifts to get through the list of things your mentor has to support you through before you’re turned loose to function mentor-less. I did write a few texts^^^—and I hope you eventually get over that initial shock of, oh, you poor thing, let me give you a cup of tea and a biscuit.#
The next fortnight is going to be a little unnecessarily exciting however since I’m still at the tremulous beginning of learning Sam weekly duty-shift stamina and I’ve got Street Pastor shifts two weeks in a row too. This is from the swap with Eleanor—she took my Friday night before a Saturday-morning Sam training in June and I’m taking her Saturday in July while she’s touring great swathes of America with her husband. Meanwhile the ME needs to clear off.
^ . . . I’m here. I’m writing a blog entry. This is not the new Zombie McKinley. Breath on the mirror and everything.
^^ And I’m going to assume that hang-ups are not in response to my American accent.
^^^ My mentor, whom we will call Pythia, has a very good line: if you had written what this person has written, is this the response you’d want to read? —Since ‘I have a magic wand and I’m about to make it all go away’ is ineligible, like the cup of tea, if for different reasons.
# Tricky, of course, since they could be texting you from anywhere. New Guinea. Mars.+
+ A CUP OF TEA AND A BISCUIT?? I’M SO BRITISH.~
~ I have no idea what the cup-of-tea-and-a-biscuit equivalent is in either New Guinea or Mars.
† Although I continue to be tempted to take . . . probably Matty Groves in to Nadia. Some folk song with drama. I told you, didn’t I, that I asked her how you sing a maddened nobleman who is about to off both his wife and her lover when you’re a soprano? And she said it’s all in how you release the consonants. And. Glory. Yes.^
I may not have told you since I don’t remember admitting that I’m not a big Sandy Denny fan^^. I know. Heresy. I am, indeed, so lost to all finer feelings that I wonder if the Sandy Denny cult might be somewhat based on the fact that she died young. Nice enough voice but . . . eh. Give me Maddy Prior or June Tabor or Norma Waterson. The Matty Groves take that makes my blood beat hard and my hair stand on end is Fairport Convention after Sandy Denny, with the blokes singing. And they can roar, which is not an option available to a soprano.
But I think I’m still not quite up to eating the scenery for Nadia. Maybe a few more weeks. Months. Years. . . .
^ ‘ . . . And I shall Strike the very next blow, and I will Kill you if I Can.’
^^ But when the ME is this bad I don’t have any memory either.
†† Famous on twenty-three continents^ for having a vocal range of two and a half notes, and tends to write songs accordingly.
^ This includes Mars
††† Your Body Is Your Instrument. Why didn’t I stick with the piano?
‡ I mean . . . singing. Melodic. More or less. Probably. I wasn’t in the band this week so it didn’t matter.
‡‡ Mozart? And he was—?
‡‡‡ Although the presence of non-eating hellhounds in the back seat, looking forward to their Monday afternoon post-lesson walk somewhere interesting, probably was not helping. They like me wrecked by ME: I’m much more willing to noodle along while they investigate every clump of grass for the recent presence of other dogs and/or fascinating pieces of litter.
§ Oh—that Mozart
§§ She also said that if I can’t do this free resonating thing at home this week—don’t panic. But that I should only sing new music—stuff I’m working on for the first time now—if I break out Che Faro, for example, which is absolutely my longing and desire, I’ll just revert to old habits. Wait a little now, she said. We’ll go back to Che Faro later, I promise.
There is a person, let’s say Person A, we will call him Abelard, who is doing a Project. He is canvassing reactions and seeking input from a variety of Other Persons. I am on this list. Recently I received an email from Abelard that was to everyone on the list. I answered. Most of our answers go to him individually—occasionally one escapes and comes to the entire list—and he then posts round ups about what everyone is saying about this or that. I noticed that my input had not been acknowledged. Hmm. Then there’s an email saying that he hasn’t heard from everyone and he’s hoping the rest of us will get in touch. !!!!! So I emailed him again.
Then I emailed asking for acknowledgement that he’s receiving my emails.
So I emailed his boss, Person B, whom we will call Bozo, saying that Abelard was not receiving my recent emails about his Project. Bozo did not deign to reply to me, but he copied me forwarding mine to Abelard. Next round-up email Abelard adds a paragraph saying Robin, I’m not getting your emails.
I forward this back to Bozo and say now what?
There is a pause, and then Bozo emails grandly, well, since you’re not really necessary to this Project why don’t you just let it go?
I stare at this in disbelief for a moment (Bozo and I have had our little differences before—just by the way). Then I write him again. Then I take out all the adjectives and I send what I have written, including a copy of my original email to Abelard, to demonstrate that I might conceivably have something to contribute.
There is another pause AND THEN I RECEIVE ANOTHER EMAIL FROM BOZO SAYING THAT ABELARD IS RUNNING THIS PROJECT AND I SHOULD BE CONTACTING HIM DIRECTLY.
DO I GET TO SAY AT THIS POINT THAT BOZO IS AN INCOMPETENT TWIT?
Then I took my two shifts of hellcritters out and sang like crazy.*
I told you last week that I was going to experiment in turning over a new leaf about my singing—well maybe blow on a new leaf or wave it around a little—or maybe turn over just a new petiole—although I suspect if you turn the petiole over the leaf goes with it. Whatever. But I was going to stop pretending I didn’t have any voice just because I don’t sound like Nadia or Joyce DiDonato, and I was also going to stop pretending that the only time I had any voice was during my voice lessons after Nadia had done her teacher magic and that it all went away again as soon as I was at home and it was just me and the piano and an assortment of beady-eyed hellcritters.** And, since I do have a voice, such as it is, I was going to work on developing singing stamina.
And what better exercise aid than very long folk songs?*** I had another little epiphany about singing folk songs too, and this makes me look like even more of a nincompoop† than the ‘oh woe is me I have no voice’ thing. I’ve taken folk songs in to Nadia off and on right along pretty much from the beginning and she’s even said (repeatedly) ‘find what works for you’ but noooooo I’m not going to let myself get away with it being easy. So I keep trying to find THE EXACTLY PRECISELY RIGHT VERSION of whatever, which I will then learn slavishly . . . but folk songs being the slippery little devils that they are I rarely do find the exactly precisely right version which means that . . . I can’t learn them. No! Not allowed! It must be the ultimate perfect rubber-stamped passed-in-triplicate official THE VERSION!!!!! How pathetic is that. Very, very, very slightly in my defense, the problem often is that I have the version I like and I want to sing in my head and/or my imagination’s ear, from Maddy Prior or Jean Ritchie or someone, and the available sheet music is never it. McKinley. It’s folk music. Make it up. Good grief.
To be continued again. . . .
* * *
* Or, you know, like sanity. Till I felt better. Hey, it works. A good murder ballad. . . .
** At Third House the critter beds will not be slap next to the piano. WILL. NOT.
*** I sang for service again this past Sunday. This clearly counts as vocal press-ups, since over the course of a long evening you’re singing hard for probably an hour and a half. Riordan, who was music leader for the evening service, sent us the playlist Monday evening. Usually I’m whining for it Thursday or so and on at least one occasion we got it Saturday afternoon.^
It’s a mixed blessing however, having it that early. You have so much less excuse for not spending serious time learning the latest rash of driv—I mean, these earnest, committed songs of modern worship. ARRRRRGH. What I have found, however, is that power ballads for God have the same effect on me that power ballads about everything else do—which is to say they depress the crap out of me.^^^ It’s all so moany.
So I maybe didn’t get quite as much practise in as I might have done for having had the playlist all week. But the funny thing was that in the heat of the moment Sunday evening with everyone else singing and twanging and thundering~ . . . it all became quite jolly. Aside from the whole ‘worshipping God’ aspect. At the end of service as I was crawling around on my hands and knees coiling up ENDLESS, Midgard-Serpent-length frelling cables, Buck sauntered past nonchalantly and said, if you get too good at that, you know, we’ll put you on the rota permanently.
In six months I’m going to have a voice like iron.
^ People have lives. Christians too.
^^ I would much rather sing Are you working in the vineyard of the Lord?, which isn’t on YouTube, which is very sad+ or When the roll is called up yonder, of which there are a gazillion versions on YouTube, many of them not fit for much beyond making you a Hindu++, although I rather like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIB0xL-ejQk&index=11&list=PLD747A0359ACA320E But then I have a weakness for the banjo after a misspent childhood listening to the Kingston Trio.+++
+ ‘From the desert wilds of sin/ Are you bringing lost ones in?’ Gospel lyrics don’t mess around.
++ Although if student performances of Voi Che Sapete can’t put me off Mozart—and they can’t—the Singing Goldfish# of Goodgodville shouldn’t shake my faith.
# Glub glub glub glub
+++ YES. I AM THAT OLD.
^^^ I had a friend a million years ago in another life+ who used to call the soft rock radio station his wife favoured ‘suicide music’. This is perhaps a little strong but I know what he meant.++
+ YES. I AM THAT OLD.
++ Although I like this video:
~ Serious drum kit. Golly.
† Not to say an incompetent twit.
There is a God*: hellhounds ate their dinner. For like the first time in a fortnight. Maybe three weeks. I don’t know how much these thrilling new horizons of food prejudice are the new treatment they’re on, how much is the weather—although summer only began about this week**—how much is natural hellhound perversity and how much is the Borg.*** But it is hard on the person poking food down their throats two or three times a day†. I suppose it is too much to hope for that this is a new trend. . . .
Meanwhile. I’ve been singing.†† I’ve had a series of tiny epiphanies this week in a sort of PING-OW-PING-OW ††† cattle-prod pattern. Nadia’s new beginner soprano was ahead of me this week instead of the scary could-have-been-professional-WHY-AM-I-BOTHERING bloke. And she was torturing poor old Caro Mio Ben in a way that made me feel almost nostalgic. But . . . I could hear what Nadia is doing with her. In a way that you can’t hear yourself. I know I’ve been that route‡ but it’s waaaaay different from the inside. I could hear her ‘real’ voice breaking through occasionally‡‡ and I could hear what Nadia keeps telling me about me, that pitch is not the problem, making the sound is the problem, and if/when I make the sound correctly the pitch will be fine.‡‡‡
Last week was not a great week in what I acknowledge has been a too-little-interrupted series of crap weeks, and I was expecting Nadia to have to spend most of my lesson winkling my voice out of hiding. It’s a bit prone to slamming the door shut and hiding under the bed. I’m so used to going to my lesson to be re-set that I don’t always notice what I’m doing at home because it can’t possibly be any good, now can it? Nooooooo.§§ I go through the frelling blasted motions and then take the pieces in to Nadia to do something with. So, for example, I have been failing to notice that recently, even when I’m having a crap week, there’s still enough voice for me to sing with.
I was singing within the first few minutes of warm-up last Monday. SINGING. Nadia didn’t need forceps or anything. And we had a really good bash at Vedrai Carino§§§. And . . . okay, so I’ll never be Joyce DiDonato, but at my age it would be kind of a waste, not to mention that I already have a perfectly good creative career. But . . . I do have a voice. I may never get much beyond singing Jesus Is My Boyfriend for Sunday service at St Margaret’s but . . . I have a voice. I have to stop saying I don’t.
Also . . . my voice got tired before the end of the lesson because it had come roaring out of its silk-lined palanquin with such uncharacteristic dispatch. I came home thinking if I sang more and maybe developed some stamina, and engaged more with what I chose to sing and why I chose it. . . .
PING. To be continued. . . .
* * *
** And my annual anguish about when/if to turn the Aga off.
*** Who mess with our dogs and our rose-bushes as well as our computers to keep us demoralised and malleable. Souvenir de la Malmaison is out there laughing her thorny little socks off because of course Death by Sunlight began after all the rain had wrecked most of her flowers this year as usual. Since she’s now about forty feet tall she’s oppressing all my neighbours too.
† Two bottom lines: they get really ill if they miss more than one meal in a row, as I re-proved recently^, and the new drug has to be given with food.
^ None of us enjoyed the experience
†† Well duh.
††† And another one bell ringing at Crabbiton last night.
I was only the third person to arrive expecting to pull a rope and Felicity was wondering if she should have cancelled practise—it’s June, it’s hot, everyone is at home enjoying the long daylight and either drinking their iced tea or pouring it over their heads to cool off—and Wild Robert wasn’t going to make it. Three more people turned up. Yaay. Crabbiton only has six bells: we’re good to go.
Um. Except for the fact that Felicity and I were the good ringers and . . . um.
The funny thing is . . . we had a good practise. Everyone managed to do something that made them feel they were learning something. In poor Felicity’s case this was mostly the thankless task of holding practise together. In my case . . . she frelling made me frelling call SEVERAL touches of frelling Grandsire doubles.
I used to know a simple-minded touch of Grandsire where if you can count to three twice you’ll do. And then various things happened, including that I started ringing at Forza where there are eighty-seven bells and almost enough good ringers to ring them, and you’d better not even admit that you can (probably) call the notorious beginner’s touch of Grandsire doubles. And then when I recently began ringing at Crabbiton . . . Wild Robert decided it was time I learnt the touch after the beginner’s touch.
I have spectacularly failed to learn this new touch, and in the process—especially since it’s been a while since I tried to call it—I have forgotten the beginner’s touch.
Last night I re-invented it from first principles, with some help from the band.^ It took three tries but . . . we did it. And the teeny-weeny epiphany was: Wild Robert wants me to learn this second touch because it’ll force me to pay attention to where the other bells are, rather than blindly following a simple pattern for my bell. I don’t have enough brain. Counting to three twice is enough, when you’re also ringing a frelling bell.
Except . . . I had to pay some attention to where the other bells were last night, to re-figure out the simple pattern for mine. I didn’t do it well or thoroughly . . . but I did it enough to have a tiny insight into what Wild Robert is on about. And what I’d have to do to call his nasty next touch. PING. OW.
Now I have to decide if I’m going to tell him.
^ YOU CAN’T CALL A BOB THERE.
‡ Including torturing Caro Mio Ben.
‡‡ Note that she has more voice than I did when I began, but, as I was telling someone again recently, everyone has more voice than I did when I began. Nadia, Sorceress. Put her up against Circe and Circe would creep away weeping and get a job as an insurance adjuster.
‡‡‡ This is not to say there aren’t pitch problems out there. I used sometimes to follow a woman with quite a nice voice . . . who couldn’t carry a tune in a basket. I think she has stopped coming.
§ Also just hearing Nadia beginning to open her up is cheering somehow. It makes it more of a process and less . . . sorcery.
§§ I’m also having a meltdown crisis of confidence about the Samaritans as we approach the end of training and the beginning of duty. SIIIIIIIIIGH. I am so predictable.
§§§ Mozart is my man. Although if anyone could find a half-decent edition of Beethoven’s folk song arrangements for solo voice I would be all over it.
Jonas Kaufman, AKA world’s most fabulous male singer*, was interviewed on Radio Three this past Saturday afternoon**—early enough Saturday afternoon that I was still kind of staggering around groping for more caffeine and tripping over the hellterror, who gets very excited by the prospect of . . . everything.*** And I was listening to him and thinking [sic] approximately three things: (1) He sounds nice.† (2) He sounds a lot like Nadia talking about singing. (3) WHY AM I BOTHERING? If he’s a Ferrari I’m a junkheap bicycle with bent steering and a tyre missing. SIGH.
I sang for service again last night. I think I’ve told you I’m singing approximately fortnightly because they are mysteriously short of singers††. Horrible confession time. It’s fun. Even more horrible confession time: it’s chiefly fun because of the team thing, I who loathe groups and feel that the perfect social assemblage is two hellhounds, a hellterror and a laptop.††† I realised the fun thing with particular acuteness last night because we were attempting a song that nobody knew, but Buck, who was leading, had decided we should. So we were all somewhat equaller than usual, although not that much because Buck and Aloysius more or less know what they’re doing and the rest of us say ‘yes boss’ and try not to look stuffed. But learning something as a group—learning something that needs a group to do it—is, you know, bonding.‡ I suppose God gets a look-in here somewhere too.‡‡
It is interesting, how far I’ve come. Nadia teases me about the sleep she lost, when I was first taking lessons from her, wondering how she was ever going to open me up out of a faint squeaking noise.‡‡‡ Due to various traumas today was my first lesson in three weeks and I’ve been missing her—the thing I go to her for even more than knocking the weevils out of my repertoire§ is to reset my voice. The longer I’m left un-reset the less voice I have as the old habits relentlessly shut me down again.
Except . . . not so much. I was certainly glad of my resetting today§§—we also had a little weevil-elimination from THE SUN WHOSE RAYS ARE ALL ABLAZE—but I’d had enough voice to leave a singe mark on the back of Buck’s shirt yesterday evening. I’m learning more music because every note isn’t a life or death struggle against entropy.
Singing is, you know . . . it’s fun.
* * *
* http://www.jonaskaufmann.com/en/ Note that I’m not the only person who thinks so. The thing about Kaufman is the dark edge: I adore Juan Diego Florez ^ http://www.juandiegoflorez.com/ for example but he doesn’t scare me. Kaufman in full transcendent roar is scary.
^ We’re sticking to tenors here. If we let baritones in+ we’ll be here all night.++ And when did opera singers get cute? I never wanted to go home with Pavarotti.+++ When I was still young enough to go hang around stage doors they were never cute. Unfair.
+ Dmitri Hvorostovsky http://hvorostovsky.com/ for example.
++ Um. It’s already morning. Just by the way.
+++ Note: ewww.
** http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04571zt I really hate the BBC web site, it is such a mess. If you don’t know exactly where to find something in the schedule you’re gerfarkled. I idiotically, because I so should know better, just now started by putting ‘Jonas Kaufman’ in the search window and . . . got one hit, to a review of some CD he was in quite a while ago. You need to download your podcasts fast while they’re still unearthable on the recent schedule. Because I am a dedicated, not to say pathological, listener to Radio Three I use the wretched BBC site a lot and have I think three times filled out one of those PLEASE TELL US HOW WE’RE DOING questionnaires in which I give them relentlessly one star for everything and fill the ‘other’ options with detailed complaints. . . . And for some reason nothing ever changes.
*** Hellhounds open one eye and say Wake us up if the world ends. Well, wake us up if the world ends if there’s going to be anything good to chase. Demons, sprites, fifty-foot mutant rabbits, etc.
† It’s not enough that he’s cute, he has to be NICE?
†† Any Fool Can Sing. As witnessed by the fact that I’ve received a few compliments on my singing. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I think this is known as ‘be nice to her so she’ll keep coming and filling up a gap on stage’. Although Buck turning on me—I was immediately behind^ him last night—and saying, you’re really loud, may not exactly construe as a compliment.
^ repeat behind. Behind is good. Farther away from the FRONT is GOOD. Also, it turns out, good is the awful spotlights that frelling BLIND YOU. It means you can’t really see the congregation.
††† Peter is in bed asleep as are all sensible people at this hour.
‡ I’m trying to decide why it seems so different in kind from bell ringing, which is also a necessarily team thing.^ Maybe because music is simultaneous rather than serial? And by being simultaneous rather than serial there’s slightly more room to go wrong without anyone hating you? Well, at least in an informal service in a small-town church. There isn’t a losing-the-quarter equivalent in informal small-town service singing, I don’t think. If you make a horrible clashing noise you stop and start again at the beginning of the verse. Nobody dies or goes home mad. And nothing that happens on stage at St Margaret’s is ANYTHING like as intimidating as the frelling ringing chamber at Forza. Which I have to start cranking myself up to face again as soon as Wednesday night Samaritan training is over—and as of this week we’re more than halfway.
^ And which I blame for getting me softened up on the subject of team activities.
‡‡ Pretty much every musical friend I have warned me that singing for service may make it less about worship and more about performance. I am very likely missing something but this doesn’t seem to be what is happening. It may have to do with the fact that This Voice is as new as my Christianity is. Newer. It’s like oh, gee, thanks, God, I like being audible when I sing^, here, have some back. ^^
^ So long as I am remotely on pitch
^^ I’ve started thinking about writing my own Jesus Is My Boyfriend power ballad.+ Or maybe just setting a few lines of a psalm.
+ I still think most Modern Christian Worship Music sucks rabid wolverines. Maybe it’s just that holding a microphone makes me care.
‡‡‡ Remember that we’re talking about something growing from the size of a bacterium to the size of a small, undernourished Chihuahua. Very impressive in context^ but I will still never make Mastiff size or, to put it another way, I will never sing with Jonas Kaufman.
^ Yaaaaaaay Nadia
§ When I’ve been performing something in an especially weevilly way I tell Nadia that at least it proves I’m not slavishly listening to the pros on YouTube. Speaking of pros: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Schubert lieder: AAAAAAAAUGH. WHY AM I BOTHERING?^
^ For fun?
§§ Nadia can briefly raise me from undernourished Chihuahua to mini bull terrier. If I ever made it to whippet x deerhound I’d start going to auditions.
. . . wherein dropping your music all over the stage is like not getting killed because your enchanted sword, your equally enchanted bracelet-shield and your mighty war-horse have you covered, not to mention a regiment of Falcons coming to your aid.
Because St Margaret’s is short of musicians cough cough cough cough and are not fussy about the quality of their volunteers and because (almost) Any Fool Can Sing and I’m certainly somewhat less of a fool and more of a singer than I was two or three years ago, I’ve been signing myself up on the rota to sing every other week. Tonight was one of my microphone nights.
Not till yesterday—there’s kind of a lot going on*—I suddenly thought OH MY NEON STROBING WHATSIT, I HAVEN’T HAD THE PLAYLIST FOR SUNDAY YET. I scrambled on line to check who the music leader for the evening was—Samantha—and discovered . . . that my name wasn’t on the rota. It’s there for a fortnight from now but not for tonight. ARRRRRGH. SOFTWARE HATES ME. Not that this is news or anything.** But they were still short of singers, so I emailed Buck. . . .
I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN MY ABSENCE FROM THE ROTA AS A SIGN. I SHOULD FRELLING KNOW A FRELLING SIGN WHEN I SEE ONE.***
Buck emailed back that they’d be glad to have me, and forwarded Samantha’s music-leader email from earlier that day—yesterday—saying that SHE HADN’T DECIDED YET. But that her final choice would PROBABLY be from AMONG THE FOLLOWING 1,000,000,000 possibles. . . .
I arrived tonight already beginning to hyperventilate and found Buck and Samantha arguing about key signatures. Samantha is an alto and always wants stuff pitched extra low. Okay, I can bellow, but there are two or three notes in the middle where I can’t get much noise either from chest or head voice . . . and of course those are the two or three notes most used in tonight’s selection . . . which Samantha was still swapping around. Fortunately Janey was there too; I might very well have been reduced to making fish mouths if I hadn’t been standing next to someone singing what I was supposed to sing—Samantha is up at the front of the stage as leader, she’s no use. Practise started late and got bogged down in key signature changes and esoterica like bridges. Hey, you sing one verse, and then you sing another verse, and then you go on to the next song, okay? It’s not like it’s Mozart or something.†
But because we kept coming adrift over superfluities like what the guitar or the keyboard was supposed to be playing we didn’t get to sing everything and raced over two songs saying oh we don’t have to practise those, we know those and I’m saying NO WE DON’T. I DON’T KNOW THEM and they’re saying OH YES YOU DO. YOU’LL REMEMBER AS SOON AS WE START. And I’m saying GLEEEEEEEEP.
So I’m in a weakened condition when I totter off the stage to fetch my standard cup of Crimson Glory tea†† and then sit down for a moment before the service begins, and on my way to the kitchen I am WAYLAID by the Greeter Steward Person who (among other tasks) usually has the perhaps less than happy duty of ensnaring readers: there are two (Bible) readings per service and therefore two readers are necessary. Wouldn’t you like to do a READING tonight? she said. Erm. Well, I don’t mind, and—as mentioned on these virtual pages several times previously—the thing about getting involved with a church community is that you want to be careful to pitch in on the stuff you don’t mind doing or sure as eggs is eggs [sic] you’ll get nailed for stuff you do mind. So I said yes.
I managed to miss the band intro because I was still staring at the floor from my chair during opening prayers and I look up and everybody else is on stage and they’d already begun by the time I stumbled up the frelling stair and grabbed my microphone. Since the first song is one of the ones I don’t know nobody was missing much.†††
Janey and I were sharing a music stand which would be okay except for the part about how it’s not quite wide enough. Our sheet music is in plastic covers, and three-pagers fold out, and the music stand is only two pages wide, and the plastic covers are floppy. So I cleverly borrowed a stiff notebook to widen the music stand a bit so we could see all three pages at the same time, since sometimes you go back to the beginning for the next verse, you know? Arrrgh.‡ And for the last song, which was a three-pager, I was delicately arranging it and then twisting the stand slightly so Janey could see it too and I managed to drop all the rest of the music all over the stage in a snowstorm of pages AAAAAAAUUGH KILL ME NOW. So we finish the final song of the set and I’m on my hands and knees frantically scrabbling up pages . . . have I mentioned that the Bible readings come immediately after the singing? And that I was doing the first reading?
I flung the music back on the stand, fled for my chair—usually sitting in the back of the congregation is fine—and Bible, and shot for the front again where Buck, who did not know who was doing tonight’s readings, was fiddling with the microphone stand and said laconically, in typical Buckminster manner, Hey, I was getting worried.
I read. I didn’t drop the Bible or get my tongue twisted and say ‘—-’ or ‘—-’ inadvertently.
Not a whole lot else happened.‡‡ I didn’t fall down or throw up or knock over anybody else’s music stand for the final song at the end of the service. I even got up on stage more or less on time. But I don’t think the Falcons would have bothered rescuing me.
* * *
* I’ve told you Fiona is coming back this Tuesday to help me further whack Third House into inhabitable condition. The problem with this is that I need a clue what to ask her to do. Aside from the standard Oxfam run with the several million more slightly used books in the boot, making her car hunker down like an American moonshine runner.
** And this programme in particular has decided that I am devilspawn and every time I open it it assigns me a Small Blue Flashing Escort Box with Special Powers that follows me around and messes with what I’m doing. Because you can’t be too careful with devilspawn. What I want to know is if as we approach Sunday fortnight my name will disappear from that rota too.
*** I write fantasy for a living, you know. Lots of signs and portents in fantasy. I like signs and portents. In fantasy.
† Singing from the front does help my attitude toward Modern Christian Worship Flapdoodle I Mean Music but it hasn’t exactly revolutionised it.
When I started going there, St Margaret’s didn’t have any herb tea bags. What is the MATTER with these people?! So I brought them a box of Crimson Glory. Nobody seems to drink it but me. I brought them a second box a while back. The tea ladies see me coming and bring out The Red Box.
††† I should perhaps elucidate that there are two kinds of songs I don’t know. The ones we practised—not enough—and the ones we didn’t practise. At all. Tonight’s first song falls into the first category.
‡ Also one of the songs I half know is too much like another song and it’s one of those with no music at all, just a lyric page so I kept trying to sing the other melody and . . .
‡‡ Except one of the admin—one I don’t usually have much occasion to talk to—made a point of coming up to tell me how well I’d read. Snork. It’s Paul, hectoring the Corinthians for immorality. I can do ranting.