It’s been a long time coming and there’ll be no shortage of people wishing it wasn’t happening at all, convinced that it must be some sort of nightmare, an aberration. Some mistake surely? More than 60 years after being told to stand at the back and mime, I’ve found my voice and a choir that is willing to allow me to sing with them in a concert. It’s a proper concert at a proper venue, this Saturday – that’s tomorrow – and the enormity of it all is beginning to overwhelm me.
It’s not Carnegie Hall (though it might as well be) and I won’t be centre stage like the wonderfully deluded Florence Foster Jenkins, a role that tested the considerable acting skills of Maureen Lipman, who is musical and can sing, to the limits in Peter Quilter’s play Glorious!. Apparently it’s terribly hard to do singing badly well if you can sing – if you’re still with me.
Florence, a wealthy socialite, has been described as the world’s worst opera singer and author Stephen Pile wrote: “No one, before or since, has succeeded in liberating themselves quite so completely from the shackles of musical notation.” She was ok on the piano but the general consensus was that basic vocal skills like pitch, rhythm and sustaining notes and phrases eluded her. I know that feeling. Flat pretty well sums it up.
Nevertheless, Florence, ever determined and flamboyant, remained defiant: “People may say I can’t sing but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”
There was no denying she was a showwoman and Cole Porter was one of those who tried not to miss a recital – although legend has it that he had to bang his cane into his foot in order not to laugh out loud.
Many thanks to Wikipedia for most of the info above, some of it undoubtedly accurate. Fortunately, tomorrow I’ll be surrounded by people who can sing and there’s no danger of me being asked to perform a solo – unless they need the hall cleared in double-quick time.
Having been to an extra, utterly exhausting rehearsal on Thursday, my head hurt and it and my heart were telling me that I was an eejit to be contemplating this bonkers endeavour. But I’ve said I’ll do it and a few long-suffering friends with nothing better to do have bought tickets on the proviso that I’m on stage, with the choir. If I chicken out and join them in the audience, I’m paying for their tickets – and probably all the drinks…
Dai, who could sing, couldn’t tolerate my woeful efforts at warbling in the shower, so I can’t quite get my head round the fact that Helen, whose passion Social Singers (Everybody Sings!) is, doesn’t visibly cringe when she hears my efforts. (Sometimes there aren’t even a dozen people in our group in Lichfield – Covid and other commitments have taken their toll – so there’s no hiding place; I’m not miming in this group, that would be missing the point.) Perhaps she does inwardly flinch but at least I show up most weeks and make an effort, even though proper singers like Helen, who has perfect pitch (whatever that is), can’t possibly understand that some of us haven’t a clue what a note is.
It’s probably not audible to the naked ear but I’m sure I’ve got better, not least because I’m learning more about music, breathing (blimey, it’s hard), about listening and looking – at the conductor, who’ll be doing her best to keep us together – and my only regret is that I’m really no good at all. Singing really is one of the great joys and to do it well or even half decently would be fabulous.
We’ll be finishing with Abba’s “Thank You For The Music” – audience as well, so the pressure will be off – and one of the lines is: “…I have a talent a wonderful thing ’cause everyone listens when I start to sing…” Well, it would be wonderful but many millions have bopped to it with delight and murdered the tune, so what the heck: thank you for the music for giving it to me…
A few years ago a singing teacher told me that she thought I’d been “badly served” and that I “had a range” and even mentioned Kathleen Ferrier, a contralto nonpareiI. I walked back home roaring with laughter at the very thought. The range, by the way, was an octave, which is bugger all but what the heck!
I did play golf this week – the weather was gorgeous, the company was good, so were some of the shots but the scoring was indifferent at best and my excuse is that I was distracted by the endless toneless humming in my head as I prepped for the big sing-song.
Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye…