As I was composing my shower song this morning, I heard the news that my friend and bass from The Bridge Singers, Bob George, died last Friday. This is very sad news once more. He was one of the best friends of Alan who died in July and I immediately started thinking about how this song could be for Bob as well as Alan. I have succeeded in writing a song that is appropriate to remember them both (Northumbrian in flavour for Alan, and humorous in flavour for Bob, and also suitable for our WW1 commemoration recital in November) and I will try it out on the choir tomorrow, if we can bear it. Bob was such a loud and funny part of this choir and was back on top form last Monday after a period of subdued behaviour due to illness and worry and also sadness at the death of his friend. It will be a sad rehearsal tomorrow unless I can summon up some merriment as Bob would have done. Here are the lyrics for verse 3 of my song, using the words of Alan Blevins, “I did remark that it’s not the sort of song I sing in the shower.”
He caterwauled his awful song outside amongst the flowers.
I heard from privates in the queue he’d been there half an hour.
“Excuse me Sir,” I did remark, “That tune of yours is off the mark.
That’s not the sort of song we like to hear sung in the shower!”
A day off and we went to Keswick to visit my sister and brother-in-law whose birthdays are this coming week. On the way we stopped off at Lanercost Priory and I marvelled at the windows. Later there was pie, hugs and laughter. Arriving home there was sleepiness so we will sleep. And tomorrow is Sunday so no pressure on getty up times.
Determined to get up for the sunrise, whatever the weather, I indeed got up for the sunrise, and it was glorious as you see.
Later there was shopping in Newcastle, a spot of composing and then off to Rock Festival Choir where we started our Advent music, including this one, which also elicited some interest from a male voice choir in Middlesex today! People bought scores of my arrangement of How Beautiful Are the Feet today too.
I drove off to Wooler this morning to dep for Veronica at the Cheviot Singers. We sang lots of ABBA and then they asked if they could sing my You Will Remember song. Very happy to oblige with that request! Later after gathering Jamie from stressful meetings in Alnwick I observed this intrepid photographer taking wedding photos on the bridge. His precarious position enabled me to get him and the phone box in the same picture – very obliging of him. Even later it was off to Lionheart Harmony for merriment as usual.
More sorting. More learning tracks, but also guacamole, lamb stack, Mexican salad and carrot cake in the kitchen. Someone Jamie works with came round for dinner this evening – a unique event. We sat at the table in the spare living room to eat, and just after this photo sat on the new stools and snacked on guacamole and corn chips. My singing in the shower song is brewing. It’d better get a move on because this month will soon be over and I named the blog as I did as an incentive to get the song finished in September.
I borrowed and adapted my own recent song lyrics to describe my morning.
For a week
Four piles this way,
Ten the other.
Trudge twixt desk and filing cabinet.
The piles are full of memories,
The floor, a layer of fluff, toe deep,
It’s all I see – my restricted point of view.
Then, in my “newly enlarged by the removal of sundry piles” working space, I made lots of learning tracks for choir, including for this rather lovely piece.
I spent most of yesterday and then again today sorting and tidying the room in which I work. I have this habit of making piles of “things to be sorted” and after great lengths of time, I do cursory sorting. This time I am being thorough. I think this is on account of the delight I’m gleaning from the sudden enjoyment of having some of the other rooms in a clean and tidy state after the recent upheavals. I’m finding all manner of things I’d forgotten about including several half-finished ideas, a gift card for £80 (I don’t know who gave it to me, nor when I got it, and as I type this I thought I’d double check, and now I can’t find it again!), a collection of things belonging to my Dad (including two sides of handwritten anecdotes about his childhood adventures at Retford Railway Station, penned at 4.32 am one morning “in case you leave while I’m asleep”), three cloths for cleaning my spectacles including one emblazoned with the logo of Brisbane Catholic Education – a corporate gift from a former headteacher. The list goes on. It’s fascinating. Also, tonight, there was merriment of The Bridge Singers. We tackled some new repertoire for our November concert, lurching from the sublime (Purcell’s When I Am laid In earth) to the ridiculous (Dixie is Dixie Once More). It may be an idiomatic cliché but our selection of repertoire certainly is not.
I’ve started the day still thinking about yesterday’s concerts, but I’m merely procrastinating before what is to be a day of tidying and sorting. Here’s the opening of my new piece, “Mustering in Siberia” with the lovely basses of The Bridge Singers, and Kieran Fitzsimons on the birthday organ! The picture taken in the audience by Nick Morton.
Mostly today has been about The Bridge Singers and our two concerts at Brinkburn Priory to help celebrate the 150th birthday of their organ. We did two recitals jointly with organist Kieran Fitzsimons – the same thing twice to different audiences. Well, I say the same thing twice, but it is always interesting of course how things change from one to the other as we become more familiar with the sound and the blend and the notes and tend to improve the things that weren’t so good in the first one, and then other things are not quite as good. Several of the choir preferred the first concert. I preferred the second. I don’t know why. I felt more confident – I gave more direction to the choir and my own two pieces were better. I guess the nervous edge may have not been there in the second. Anyway, both were pretty good, I thought. Someone in the audience came up to me at the end and told me how proud I must be at the progress this choir has made in the three years that we’d been up and running – she had been to our first concert and now this one, and was astonished by our transformation. She’s right – I am very proud of them and the work they put in and the enthusiasm they show every single week. Here is a photo taken by our friend Barbara Taylor and the end of our world premiere performance of Mustering in Siberia. As I said, the 2nd ever performance was even better, but I didn’t record that one!
A day of lots of beautiful Northumbrian fresh air with Julie and Shirley and Morar strolling, chatting and laughing along Ross Sands in the wind and (teensy patch of) rain and sunshine.
We picnicked in a mushroomy, grassy hollow in the dunes near the obelisks and saw much in the way of birdlife. The gannets diving were a highlight. Also, the seals performed grandly for Shirley as she approached them with her zoomy camera. I took pictures with my little camera but Shirley’s are better!
More extra practice for Saturday with a stoic quartet from The Bridge Singers was followed by tarting up of yesterday’s cakes and cheese straws for a different quartet from Lionheart Harmony. One of our best ever rehearsals with chatting, snacking and cup-of-tea-ing far out-weighing the singing, but when we did sing, boy was it excellent. There was more tweaking of Gary’s song too, and wedding chat with Tim. At the very end of the day there was a later-than-usual-due-to-trains-being-cancelled gathering of a weary Jamie, whose reward was his first sight of the new bin. He rejoiced at it through the fatigue. Here’s another sneak preview of what we’re singing on Saturday at Brinkburn – another extract from mustering in Siberia.
Today five of Lionheart Harmony sang at Sid’s funeral. It was a sad occasion, of course, but good to remember some happy times with this most splendid of fellows and also to spend a lot of the day with all the other splendid fellows in this group of singers and also their excellent wives. We had cake for Vicky’s birthday, and I made a haggis quiche for my afternoon meal later. I read a short poem too at the funeral as requested by Eileen, and managed not to weep until the singing and the reading were done. On the way home Gary, Yvonne and I drove through a dreadful duststorm where we could barely see out of the windows at all. Gary and I then sorted out the harmonies of the middle eight of his song, and then this evening we had an extra Bridge Singers rehearsal for those that wanted it in readiness for Saturday. Lots of lovely things today, but the over-riding thing was Sid. Here he is again on another poem for children – a companion piece for “Sheep”.
A day of pottering, as is my custom on a post-choir Tuesday. However, not until a trip to the trains at 6.30am, after which I wrote this: Just back from dropping Jamie off at Morpeth Station to the accompaniment of a glorious sunrise in the east and multiple rainbows as the rain swept in from the west. At the station I was scrambling about in my pockets for change. Finding none, I declared, “Of course there’s no money in these trousers, I haven’t worn them for a week!” These last three words delivered automatically in song to a recently-composed tune. You’ll only understand why if you’re in The Bridge Singers, but it made us chortle, then his train came and he was off, leaving me to the rainbows.
Addendum, 9am: here’s a recent rainbow with the appropriate bit of song to give you an idea!
Shortly thereafter, a man came to the door bearing a parcel, and it contained this:
Also, here is a little fade-in I made of the alto verse of my The Lamb from yesterday’s rehearsal, with a picture Shirley took of the tenors and basses doing some Britten.
This evening we had a rehearsal at Brinkburn Priory – a magical place – it was light when we arrived and very, very dark when we left. In between we sang through our programme for Saturday’s recital with the organist, Kieran – our first ever experience singing with an organ. This is part of my new piece and the scene in the priory after the tea break.
Today I have been listening to Gary’s song “Darling Daddy” and attempting to both notate it and then arrange it for choir. It’s currently in guitar+Gary form, and the process reminds me of some extreme aural test that I might have had to do in the olden days of studenthood. Anyway, I’m rather enjoying it, and indeed I’m almost there and this is a minute of the beginning along with some sunflowers at Cragside. The song is inspired by one of the plumbers at Alnwick Castle who went off to fight in WW1, was captured and held as a prisoner of war for a while, but sadly died before he made it home. He wrote to his wife and daughters and they wrote back. His letters are currently on display in the castle, and The Bridge Singers will be performing this song at our November 10th Commemoration Concert.
Line-ups on the coast. We went in search of a kitchen bin and were unsuccessful, but what a splendid morning strolling, hopping on and off metro trains, laughing, eating sausage-in-a-bun and purchasing other non-bin things in Tynemouth.
A couple of days ago I posted this video of my Christmas song “Alleluia! Into The Light” on Facebook and received this feedback “If I ever run a choir again, this will be top of my list for repertoire to include! ❤️”, which is nice, eh? Then the conductor of a UK choir was reminded by my prompt, of the song, which he’d heard a couple of years ago and sent me an email asking for 15 copies for the women of his choir to sing this December. Then today, through my website, another choral director in the USA purchased several copies of the TTBB version. It’s my experience that a choir buying more than one copy of a thing has a definite intention to perform it! So those of you who say I spend too much time on these internetty platforms – this is why. It keeps me and my music in people’s minds, then they remember me when they’re choosing their music. Elsewhere today I made a delicious fish pie for lunch and a delicious cake for Fingers Adrift this evening. I love spending time in the new kitchen!
Gardening in the back yard. People in the holiday let are watching you. They do not come out to greet you which is fair enough, but they stand staring at the window and you cannot escape their gaze if you want to get the work done. You inspire your neighbour on the other side to sort out her own hanging baskets. There is a steady stream of weed-bound banter and her dog pokes his nose through the gate for regular ear ruffling. You plough on and by the end of the tasks, the yard looks great, the holiday let people have become bored of you, your other neighbour and her dog have gone for a walk, it starts to rain. Time for singing. Lionheart Harmony practice without Sid. I found it incredibly sad. We were practising for his funeral and also for a birthday party. Happy and sad in equal measure timewise, but the sadness was what stayed with me as we drove home.
Album: Half and Half.
Away for the sunrise and now it’s so late that you pass no less than five cars on your way to Warkworth, it’s so late that you’re not the first car in the car park, it’s so late that you actually get caught in a traffic snarl on your way home. And yet, it’s still so early that once that frolicking couple have left early doors, you still get the beach to yourself for the entirety of your walk and still you’re home by 7.45am. And while all that’s going on, the sun does not shine because it’s in the clouded half of the sky, and then as soon as you get home the sun is in the unclouded half of the sky, and no-one would believe you if you hadn’t taken the photos.
A day off – much sleep, lots of cricket, a bit of watering and this evening I re-watched The King’s Speech on the telly. Excellent film. Every time I go into the kitchen I smile at it. It is the most excellent kitchen, and I hope this feeling never wears off. I also love the bathroom and when the other rooms are tidy I love them too!
My day of driving around the coastal areas of Northumberland, walking along the path between the Howick Bathing House and views of Dunstanburgh Castle near Craster, dropping Mum off at Alnmouth Station, still eating leftovers from Friday night’s revels, practising with altos, printing tickets and posters, rehearsing with The Wonderful Bridge Singers for our upcoming recitals on September 22nd, chatting and laughing in the Foxes’ Den over a rum and coke…
has been interspersed with standing ovations for Alastair Cook and excellent commentary on Test Match Special of the cricket from The Oval. What a way to retire from something. I hear my friend David was actually at the match – what a lucky fellow, to be sure. Read about it and hear some highlights here:
Three go to Cragside, are tired, come home, watch athletics on the telly, go to bed. Also, I finished this off: a learning track for my new piece to help The Bridge Singers get the idea!
Baking and shopping. In the evening several of our friends who have helped us through this bathroom/kitchen upheaval process came round for the first public viewing of these revamped rooms and some orange-themed food and drink in tribute to our orange kitchen. A merry evening was had, and my cream horns were a hit with most.
Mum and I have cleaned the spare living room and the living room today accompanied by the music of ABBA and also “Latin Fever”. It’s nice to have these two rooms back, I must say. Mum says she enjoyed all the cleaning, and kept at it even though I kept suggesting she stop! This was one of our favourites from the inspirational tracklist!
The day began with birthday merriment for Jamie and four new shirts. The day continued with a cheery visit to Alnwick Castle and Gardens with Mum. Oh what larks and laughter we had with the ice creams and the helmeted guinea fowl and the forgetting of the name of the rose. Then home to duck because we always have duck on our birthdays, then news that our wonderful Lionheart Harmony friend Sid died this morning. Such a brilliant, cheery friend for whom we’ve sung with great gusto in the Alnwick Infirmary during the last couple of weeks. A very sad end to a very cheery day. Here he is reading a children’s poem for me a couple of years ago.
Mum and I went to Newcastle with a list of multiple sundry items to purchase. We were reasonably successful, and now the bread has a shiny new home, the bathroom Roman blind has a new green cord so it is up and the cutlery has expandable trays to hide in. There is still no kitchen bin, but the fridge doors now have soft round cushions upon which to rest while open so the paintwork on the window ledge doesn’t get a battering. We also saw Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again at the Tyneside Cinema, and agreed that it was silly but very, very cheerful and we enjoyed it greatly. Those ABBA songs are a treat to be sure.
Drive to Morpeth Station at 6am to drop off Jamie. Mammoth shop at Cramlington food retail outlets. Big push on more cleaning, including the dust art on the stairwell window ledge. Fetching Mum from Alnmouth Station. Quick lunch, then alto practice with Jill and Carol. Drive to Morpeth to leave the car at the station for Jamie. Bus home. Mum-and-Cheryl chat. Off to choir where we did a massive learning effort on Mustering in Siberia. It’s going to sound splendid. Pub chat and merriment with several choir members. Home to find that Jamie has returned and Mum is asleep.
I finished the tiling. The last bit was the sealant, applied with one of those sealant guns and miles of masking tape. It went well, but for the second time this summer, I discovered that my fingers are not as strong as other people’s. Anyway…. it’s done and I’m very pleased with myself. Otherwise, it’s been cleaning.
I am going through the process of cleaning every item that ever was in the old kitchen, casting aside those things that we do not use or like and find a new home for those we’re keeping. I did the last bit of grouting too. I may never grout again, but now I’ve got my new float and am a tad experienced now, you never know. There are still tiles a-plenty left over! The kitchen looks excellent.