Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Someone sent me a link to a "random

act of culture" yesterday. It was yet another very bad (but undoubtedly enjoyed) rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. It was not, of course, random at all. The whole event had been carefully organised and planned - but probably not rehearsed anywhere else.
There are a number of these to be found on the internet. Some of them are better than others. This one was only of interest to me because I could (just) see a friend's son and daughter taking part.
People can do this sort of thing now. They can put up almost anything they like on the internet. The internet is, I suspect, overloaded with similar events.
I was reminded however of what was almost certainly a "random act of culture". We were living in a very small Australian "town" - the size of the place would qualify for "slightly more than a hamlet but less than a village" in England. That year we were hosting Christmas. Both sets of grandparents, an uncle and his family were coming to us for the day.
First of all however there was church. As always on Christmas Day there were some strange faces, people we did not know. We assumed they were staying in the district.
We eventually trooped reluctantly into church. The music there was supplied by an asthmatic "pedal organ" played by the woman who played the piano for the "band" which did the music for the local football dances. It was a shocking instrument and the hymn singing was - well it was not singing although everyone tried.
The minister, no more musical than the rest of the congregation, announced the first hymn and the church was suddenly filled with music, real music. At the back of the church there was the group of strangers - people who could actually sing. There was a stunned silence for a fraction of a moment and then everyone else joined in. Hymn singing that morning was a joyful affair, far removed from the usual droning efforts to make some sort of recognisable noise. It sounded like Christmas.
Ever since then I have had problems, especially with carols. The ersatz versions bleated out over the sound systems in shopping centres make me want to cover my ears. The badly sung versions I occasionally hear sung by school "choirs" bother me. Like my father I avoid carol concerts in the park with renditions of non-carols such as "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer" belted out by a "pop" group. Somehow these things do nothing for me.
I suppose I am a musical snob but I prefer the solo treble of a choirboy opening the King's College service with "Once in Royal David's City" or the Hallelujah Chorus sung by people who have rehearsed it sufficiently well to sing in tune and in a coordinated manner - or the four or five adults at the back of a small country church who could, quite simply, sing in tune and sing well and help those of us who can do neither enjoy ourselves.
I want it to sound like Christmas.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear Cat - you are asking for far too much here! Carols to sound like music? I think not!

JO said...

I love beautiful singing - like most of us.

And I sing in a choir. Sometimes we're really quite good - we had a standing ovation after a rendition of Mozart's requiem. Sometimes we make mistakes. Always - we enjoy ourselves.

So if I'm at a concert, I can live with mistakes if they are sung with gusto - and with joy.