This is a funny little half-term for choirs. I know some people come back to rehearsals and Boom! it’s straight into the Coventry Carol and Masters in this Hall. Christmas is such a huge singing festival that it can take over your whole post-summer life – but I don’t really like starting too early. I try to make sure we have something to work towards in October, then we can dive into Wassailing and rest-you-merry wholeheartedly till the end of the year.
We always sing at our local Apple Day, which takes place in the walled garden of Meersbrook Park . So we enjoy finding one or two apple-based songs to put into the mix there, which we combine with other songs we already know. This year it’s on Sunday 12th October, which is quite late, and we started rehearsals on 1st September, so we’ve got plenty of preparation time. In addition to that, we are going to sing at Scarsdale Grange residential home. Singing in residential homes is not uncommon for volunteer choirs, but what excites me about this gig is that we are sharing the stage with a choir of residents. I’m delighted that they have an activity co-ordinator who is bringing music as a creative, active recreation rather than a purely passive one. They have been meeting for a few months now and have learnt some of the songs from “The King and I”, so we are learning some Rodgers and Hammerstein too, from “The Sound of Music”.
I love musicals and I’m not ashamed who knows it. I know a lot about them and it annoys me when people dismiss them as froth which avoids the serious issues of life. They deal with some big, difficult subjects (in those two alone, you have culture-clash, polygamy, slavery, dysfunctional parenting, religion and Nazis). The happy endings are hardly ever cloudless (as a young woman I wept with Liesl realising that the dashing telegraph boy of I am Sixteen was a Nazi).
However, I know that this is a very particular genre of music – some choirs sing nothing else but we are proud of being eclectic. Some people just find it – corny, cheesy, syrupy. Doh, a deer and Edelweiss, combined with Don’t Sit under the Apple Tree, are brightly major and predictable harmonically, and I felt we needed a little piquancy. This week we started learning “Apple, Apple”, a Hungarian tune written by Matyas Seiber, which is as delicious as marmite after a honey sandwich. It’s full of crunchy harmonies and melodic lines that don’t quite go where you expect. The whole thing is really satisfying and I hope adding it to the programme will make it feel completely balanced and complement the other songs so that each will shine in its different way.