What did you get for Christmas? It’s a question I dread because always feel I have to make stuff up. And I have been known to fudge the evidence of how much my hubby loves and cherishes me/ has a clue what I might like (anything, really…fudge would be a start) /and remembers what date it is. Fortunately he has no objection to me buying whatever I want, wrapping it up and acting all surprised on Christmas morning.* But this year I absolutely outdid myself with my DIY gift. And it really is one that keeps on giving. I now have a head-full of music, courtesy of the wonderful Noosa Chorale.
It’s the only thing I’ve actually joined since we moved to our little seaside town…talk about beginner’s luck! For a start they let you just rock up and sit amid 70-odd people who’ve left families unminded, dinner uneaten, and whatever’s on the telly on a Tuesday night, because they all love the music. I look around to see if anyone has realised that I don’t know a dotted crotchet from a minim and it soon becomes evident that I’ll need to pay attention. Most of the others sight read and know what they’re doing, nevertheless they’re extremely helpful to this newbie. And the audition process is simple. The choir director demands glorious music to be sung at a very high standard and if you can’t keep up, don’t bother coming. It doesn’t take me long to twig if I’m to have a hope of joining in Vaughn Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols in four, and sometimes six parts I’ll have to tape the music and sing along with it a few thousand times, no matter how many funny looks I get in Aldi.
But the rewards! There are moments when we altos are ooh-ing and crooning in our particular range that while deeply satisfying, isn’t going to get us on Australian Idol, then suddenly the sopranos soar over us, lifting us to a perfect spot between them and the soulful bases. If you haven’t done it you should. It puts you in a place that makes the day you’ve had, the draughty hall, even the fact that your too tight jeans are extremely uncomfortable, fall right away. And afterwards we all walk out into the night smiling and humming and slowly connecting back with the mundaneness of Tuesday.
And as if that wasn’t lovely enough, there’s more!
- All those mindless chores? Done. Because I have to spend so many hours listening, the house is spotless (well, nearly) and I’ve even done the ironing.
- Walking in the National Park with an earful of splendid music is nothing short of sublime.
- I helped make 1100 mince pies! OK I was demoted from flour measuring, after the first attempt at figuring out what 200 grams looks like, but hey, they also serve who only stand with their arms in a sink of soapsuds.
- I helped fold napkins and place programmes on tables with rigorous exactitude. Hubby was there too and much better at it…all that geometry.
- I’ve been forced to join in all this community stuff! We sang carols in Hastings Street (upstaged somewhat by some screechy kids, and maybe Santa’s helpers in their tiny red fur-trimmed skirts drew the focus a little, but we were troupers!) Then we sang for the newly minted citizens on Australia Day, and will be singing and walking on Noosa Beach at 4am on Anzac Day.
- Belonging! Find a black dress, pin on the scarf thingy and join the line and you become part of something…you look the part, and all you have to do is not muck it up.
- Lovely, lovely music, and so much to learn…some of it in French! My aged brain is really getting a workout.
Everyone is really friendly and helpful and the shared love of music takes us a very long way, but P’s and Q’s still need to be minded. Here are some tips:
- Scent or aftershave is forbidden so we need to be smell-free zones. But if, heaven forfend, some fragrance lingers, let it be Chanel or Dior.
- Do your homework, especially if – like me- you’re trying to fake it till you make it.
- Don’t upset the director if he/she is fantastic, in case they leave. Ours is wonderful – a remarkable musician and musicologist whose calm admonishments are softened by a Lincolnshire burr, and a droll turn of phrase. But make no mistake, we will do it over and over and over until it approximates some very high bar he has in mind. Needless to say, we are all in love with him and want to have his babies but to his undoubted relief, lots of us are post-menopausal, so it’s not really an issue.
The spin-offs from simply joining in have been legion, not least of which is my current head-full. If you haven’t heard Karl Jenkins’ Mass for Peace entitled, The Armed Man, do yourself a favour and Google it. It’s quite wonderful, and together with Songs from the Trenches and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, a la Andrews Sisters, will be performed at the Noosa J on 17th and 18th April (shameless plug, but they do sell out apparently).
And lastly I could not possibly leave this topic without paying tribute to Mrs Celia Thomas, legendary music teacher at St Aloysius Convent in Euston circa 1963. I was a miserable disappointment to her, because having taught my Auntie Doreen, whose lovely soprano has graced many a church choir, she was hoping that her niece would do a bit better than skulk at the back of the class rolling her eyes and making smart arsed comments. So to Mrs Thomas, who is almost certainly no longer with us (she seemed as old as God’s grandmother to my arrogant teenage self, but even so she would have to be a centenarian, and then some). Thank you, thank you, for not giving up and chucking me out of the class, as I deserved. Finally I get why you banged on about the tonic sol fa and made us sing Mozart and Handel. You, and all the other teachers out there who feel on a daily basis that your pearls are being cast before swine (and what a little swine I was!), take heart. Those pearls are seeds that – when the recipient finally grows up – are ready to sprout like that cress we used to grow on the windowsill with a jam jar and some blotting paper.
Or for those who prefer the swelling strings finale …the seed, that with the sun’s love, in the spring, becomes the rose!
* I do get lovely gifts from our kids and friends and family, but why let the facts get in the way of a good ol’ rant?