Sing out sister

3 Mar|Louisa Young

I am a new girl in the Idler Choir, and I love it. We are a nice array of about twenty Monday-nighters in a scrappy room above a pub: some who love to sing, some who actually can sing, some can even read music a bit, though on the whole we’re of the “sing it to me twice and I’ll remember it” school. There’s far more men than you normally see in an amateur choir, and mostly we pay attention.

Our choirmaster Tom is far too good for us, and terribly funny. For a while we had a rather over-enthusiastic nun turning up, given to announcing for example in the middle of the saddest bit of Danny Boy: “I’m drunk!”, to which our maestro would reply, literally without missing a beat, “Don’t worry about that, sister, we all will be soon enough”. When we are out of tune he’ll say, “You’ve got the right notes; now let’s get them all in the same key.” He only rolls his eyes a little bit. “You know when I make these movements,” he says kindly, demonstrating a little mild conducting. “It’s not that I have a condition. It’s the beat.” As we drift into an elongated sentimental ending to “Hallelujah”, he reminds us: “Now, if you see anything Italian on the score, ritardando, for example, what it means, in English, is look at the conductor.” He’s Welsh, of course, and his real job is directing the choir of St Martin’s in the Fields.

I love listening to the other parts: the rumbling basses, the tuneful tenors, the altos intertwining with the sopranos. When it all clicks, we sound really quite nice, and we smile.