Carol Singing? Nah, don’t fink so.

Carols at ChristmasWearing your  pullover with the V neck at the back might well set a new trend in fashion. Wearing the said pullover walking up and down the aisle of the church as a sidesman would have been good practice for an elderly guy’s future cat-walking exhibitionism. This is what happened to a mate of mine this December. I would think the congregation neither knew if he was coming or going. Its a wonder no one in the congregation tugged his sleeve and commented on it.  Perhaps they were all too polite, perhaps many were confused. Perhaps many were asleep.

Anyway, this leads me into a rant about Carol Singing – the Downside. 

Carol singing is OK  indoors  next to warm radiators but to stand in the street and do it in a flapping wind and with little light AND the roar of traffic – well that’s another thing. Two weeks ago  I was on an outside stage, alone and playing a keyboard. The choir were in front of me but on the ground below me, all standing with their backs to me facing the conductor, a rather rotund lady who when sitting on her tiny umpires chair resembles a rather crumpled beech ball. Needless to say I could hardly see her signalling to me,  whether to prompt me to begin playing or gesturing to tell me a song was being sung out of sequence. (The choir had to perform a game of Chinese Whispers to get messages to me.)  To cap it all there was little light on the stage – I had to turn the music stand 45 degrees right to catch the murky rays of one single lamp and the music itself, faded copies from the umpteenth copy of a copy, were barely readable, each page held in a misty grey plastic wallet. Talk about pressure!

The whole thing started with Jingle Bells, BUT the sound engineer, seeing I wore hearing aids,  turned up the speaker system (the one facing me) so that the sound of each single  piano note was more like the sound of a bullet piercing a sheet of metal. It completely riddled me!  In desperation I gestured to the Sound ‘Engineer in loud Cartoon pictures (“take the *Kung-Fu sound down eleven floors”).

The choir are what I call the “Brillo-pad Choir” on account of their silver perms – and that’s just the men. There are a few passengers who travel 2nd class (back row) but in the main they are OK with a very good alto section, many of whom can read music.

We had a fair street crowd to begin with but half way through lost many who were on route for the official lighting up of the Christmas lights by some fat toy-town Mayor.

Is it worth it? Well it is for many of these elderly guys; there is a strong community spirit among the choir and we ended the term with a social event and a Christmas Carol quiz which I may post separately to fill the void and to annoy Christina  ha ha.  But to be stuck up on some scaffolding in a cold wind and with little light ….that’s tough.

12 thoughts on “Carol Singing? Nah, don’t fink so.”

  1. Is that a picture of the event you are describing – with you as the lone keyboard player? My sympathies! You obviously have a extremely good soul to agree to play in those circumstances!

    Please post your competition.

  2. Yes, that’s me all right, meanly wrapped in swaddling clothes. I shall try and post the Crimbo Carol Questions though some relied on piano accompaniment! .

  3. Why would a Christmas carol quiz annoy me?
    Can’t work that one out!

    Many decades ago I too sang in a choir., two choirs actually. We used to put on a Christmas tableau which went on for a good hour and a half in darkness. The choir had to have the whole thing word perfect by heart, every bloody verse! As I did this year after year I know virtually every carol that you are ever likely to sing by heart and can still trot them out by memory nigh on 50 years later, without music, words, piano or conductor. And yes, I can sight read, 2nd alto preferably!

    I generally go to midnight mass and the carol singing on Christmas eve just to keep my hand in so to speak. As I did this year.
    What seriously pisses me off is that they keep ‘modernising’ the wording of the Eucharist into a meaningless unmelodic gabble of gibberish for ill educated peasants with no vocabulary. No wonder people won’t go to church anymore, not surprised.

  4. Apologies Christina – an ill judged assumption on my part re your good nature! I shall hastily put together the Quiz just to test your memory – I expect you to dash through it. As a boy I used to sing in our local church choir; sometimes I could hear my mother singing from the congregation!. My aunt, Lucy Tuckwell, sang for many years in Ewelme church. I know you know the village so just wondered if you knew her; she was very active in the village with any kind of event. I was christened in that church in March 1947. It took towards three months for the snows to clear to allow transport into Ewelme. (The winter of 46/47.}

    On the subject of carols I wonder whether you have a liking for the composer John Rutter who seems to have some kind of formula for writing new carols many of which (in my opinion) are quite exquisite or shall I say bitter/sweet. If you have never heard of him try sampling on YouTube. In my book, as a yardstick, simple is best and Rutter can sometimes overcook the egg.

    NB On a trumpet blast my brother and I have together clocked up over 90 years service as organists/pianists at church services. Glory be! May I wish you a very Happy New Year.

  5. Just for the record, I don’t count Jingle Bells as a Christmas Carol – it may be a Christmas song, but if it hasn’t got religion in it – it isn’t a carol in my book! And that’s the opinion of a confirmed agnostic 🙂

    I don’t know much about the modernising of the Eucharist, other than the fact that the language of the ‘New Bible’ leaves me cold. I do, however, wish they would leave the old carol tunes alone.

    We have, of course, been blasted with Christmas Carols in the shops here – and most of them were originally joyous songs that have been converted into melancholy dirges fit only to send everyone into deep despair.

  6. Hi again PNG.

    The reason that I plunged so precipitously into replying to your Carol quiz post is that I was perusing this one and preparing a response to yours of 9.23 am and Boadicea’s responce thereto.

    I too am an agnostic (of the Presbyterian bent in my case). I still get blown away by Christmas Carols having belted them out from infancy. I attended the occasional Watch Night service decades after I had refused Confirmation in the Church of Scotland on the grounds that I was just not sure about the whole thing.

    Mrs M has a semi-professional love/hate relationship with Carols as she is regularly sucked into them at this time of year to ‘stiffen’ choirs. It follows that she has been over exposed to the works of John Rutter and cannot stand them.

    His fellow chorister, John Tavener, is, apparently, a different matter. She tells me that some of the chords in ‘The Lamb’ are ‘to die for’.

  7. How very interesting that bo should pick up Jingle bells as not a carol, it isn’t!
    It was written by a jew who was forced to take a job after his family lost all their money in the crash. He moved to Chicago and took a job with a marketing department of some retail outfit. He wrote Jingle Bells as a sales gimmick for the store! Sorry can’t remember name of the guy or the shop!

  8. pg no, I didn’t know your aunt. I used to play bridge up there and lunch at the pub regularly. I always went to the church privately never to a service. In those days it was open. I was always fascinated by that tomb!
    I lived in Stonor to the South.

  9. John thanks for the link. I hadn’t heard that before and have never really leant towards Taverner. I guess the dissonant lines of that carol add to the majesty and simplicity of the ‘resolved’ verses. Not really to my taste; almost reminds me of a toothache! But it sure is good for ear training! NB Chords to die for are found in the piano transcriptions of the jazz pianist Bill Evans, for example ‘My Foolish Heart’.

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