From ‘The Libretto’ – October 2010
LOVIN’ IT! Ramblings of a Chorister
As you get older you tend to fall over more often. The question becomes not how do you get up but what can you do when you’re down there? Recently, while down on the ground, I reminisced that one of my best moments in the choir was doing the voice tests with Siân.
I’d been coming to practice nights for about 3 weeks when Siân came across to me and said “About time you did your first voice test, Lyn” so I followed her meekly into the back room (thinking – I need the toilet). She sat down at the piano and asked if I’d ever sung before. “Never had much to sing about really, especially when I’m in the bath and look down” I said glibly. I soon learned that it doesn’t pay to be flippant with Siân. “Do you know what range your voice is in? “ she asked with a ‘tut’. “I don’t think I’m mezzo soprano, baritone maybe” I hazard a guess. Sian raised her eyebrows and thought “Oh, my God! Not another comedian, we’ve got plenty of them!” You could see it in the eyes! Maybe I didn’t learn fast enough.
“Try and follow these notes” as she hit middle C. I tried my best and squawked out something resembling the peacocks at Farthing House.
“Let’s go a little lower” suggested Siân helpfully. How low can one get, I thought? At around D (Bass clef) I think I’m getting the hang of it when Siân goes nearly an octave lower to Eb. “I just want to see how low you can go”. Short of limbo dancing under the piano, I couldn’t see how much lower I could get, but I don’t think that’s what she meant. “Well you did alright and you are definitely a baritone, welcome to the choir.” LOVIN’ IT!
It was announced that I’d passed my first voice test to stuttered applause and I was shoved in between Dai Kirton and Leon Jones as my mentors. Oh Joy! Second row! No hiding place!
This was loads of fun (sic) and they taught me a lot, encouraging me with digs in the ribs and enthusing me with”sing higher, you’re too low!” I tried standing on a chair, but that’s not what they meant either. “Perhaps you ought to be in the Bass section” they often suggested, but I thought -“ No, Siân said I was a baritone so a baritone I’ll be”. I persevered, especially with the breathing. You can’t sing unless you breathe, I was told. I’ve also learned that you must use your brain and smile as well – that’s hard! There’s a lot to learn in this choir, you know!
After 3 more months I was invited to do my second voice test.
Siân asked “What do you want to sing, Lyn?” Like a rabbit caught in the headlights, my brain went dead and I offered “SHE”. Big mistake! We went into the back room and Sian sang the tenor bit at the beginning. Going pretty well so far I thought. Not much wrong with that. I started singing ‘She may be the song that Summer sings’ nicely, but when I got to ‘She may be the chill that Autumn brings’ the chill went right down my spine and I more or less froze. By the time I got to the ‘Oooos’ I’d lost it totally. Couldn’t remember the words! Gone! Mercifully to both sets of ears, Sian stopped playing and remarked “Well, you’re nearly there, Lyn. We’ll try again next week and sing something different.” I thought ‘Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk’ might be best, but we hadn’t practised that! NOT SO LOVIN’ IT now!
Anyway, I asked Dai if he’d do the honours and come in with me and I’d sing ‘Take me Home’ which to me at the time was more a wishful thought than a song. Siân struck up the piano and this time, with Dai’s encouragement we started on ‘I remember the face of my father’. When we got to ‘I remember my mother was smiling’ it was going really well. When I left home at the tender age of 18, I remember my mother laughing her head off and throwing a party after I’d gone so that was appropriate, and can you blame her?
We were in tune and going at the right pace and I hit the high notes as well! Siân stopped playing after the chorus and commented “That was good, very, very good!” (She did, really!) “You’ve passed. You can now do concerts! Can you read music?” LOVIN’ IT!
I went back into the hall and Mike told me to go between Vince and Tommy and that’s when my troubles really started. After a few bars of Tydi a Roddaist, they both said, “Perhaps you should be in the Basses, Lyn. You’re not going high enough.” Here we go again, more sore ribs! Perhaps I need a step-ladder. But that’s another story. At least they shared the Potters Throat Lozenges – even Tom sometimes – after he’d brushed the fluff off.
Lyn (Baritone, maybe)