Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gloria In Excelsis Deo

When I was but a tween I auditioned for the school choir. Despite my foghornish vocal tone (I had two presets, blare and bleat) and lower pitch, I was placed in the Firsts (Soprano), because I could reach higher notes, and there were very few girls who could. Maybe because they were australian or something, because I remember thinking, gosh, where I came from there was no end of high-pitched girls, whereas in Australia, or as I thought when I first got to boarding school, it didn't seem at all the case! So I was quite delighted to be put in the Firsts because it finally felt like a public recognition of my femininity.

Unfortunately we had to sing some extremely high choral pieces and they suffered for it (having me sing them). However, sometimes we got to sing some amazingly moving music, one of which was Haydn's Mass in D Minor, also known as Nelson's Mass.

We got to sing with Guildford, a boys school. They were nicer and better-looking than the boys from Christchurch, who were wimps, and Hale, who were pimply-faced jocks (according to all the girls). It was all rather civilised and involved a lot of preparation which was very exciting. THe bringing together of elements - instruments, music, First, Seconds, Thirds and Fourths now, with the boys. Plus we had Soprano, Tenor, Alto and Bass Soloists from I don't know where. I wonder now where they got the moolah to get this all done. Parents? Some sort of obscure cultural fund? We rehearsed an awful long time and spent loads of time in buses going to faraway places to rehearse. In the country, at Guildford, for one. Actually, maybe it was the one time we went there, but hey, a field trip is just as good an escape from hundreds of uninterested non-musical boarding school cultural heathens.

I remember aproaching Guildford and pulling into a driveway with an old (new by world standards) limestone church on the left and a huge green lawn spiked with huge Norfolk pine trees. Very dreamy and wintry to alight off the bus and walk in the drizzling rain to the church rehearsal space and have to warm up the vocal chords before launching into the dramatic opening of Kyrie.

Why the sudden reminiscing about choral activity? I have been downloading Christmas songs and was reminded of a particularly silly christmas carol I had to sing as a First. It was throat-shredding to sing to and as uncomfortable to listen to - 20-odd Firsts trying to sing in pitch, in time and sweetly too. The carol was Ding! Dong! Merrily on High! and if you know it, you'll probably start clucking about how they shouldn't force anyone, let alone impressionable young girls, to sing that horrid song. Especially the sudden launch into the protracted Gloria, after the tortuously spritely opening lines. Ugh.

So that funny thought led to thinking about other lovelier Glorias such as the one in Haydn's Mass. (Doesn't it sound like some doctor's notes? Today I had another look at Haydn's mass.)

And it also started me thinking about this whole rigmarole lately about what can and can't be said by non-muslims to muslims (I know, I keep on harping on, no pun intended). Forgive me, but you can't own language, no matter what religion you are. And why squabble when we can all be experiencing another shopping season, eh?

Pax Vobiscum, or Assalamwalaikum.

And Merry Christmas!! Ding dong, I say!

Lovey C

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