Category Archives: Singing

Colour it in


I was stopped on the way out of church on Easter morning by a country gentleman in a chartreuse sports jacket. He began thus:

“It’s so nice…”

I need to add here that I’m often told by churchgoers that my voice is like chocolate, velvet, a brick wrapped in a sock etc. Being practised in the art of graciously accepting these compliments, I’m already beaming and nodding.

“… to sit behind someone who…”

… can wallop through Thine Be The Glory like Kiri Te Kanawa at a hen party? Belt a top E with the grace of an extremely large blackbird?

“… likes wearing colour as much as I do.”

Country attire is an odd combination of Demure and Dazzling. On the Demure bench: women and children in a tasteful range of beige, baby pink, watery blue, dove grey. On the Dazzling bench: men. Young and old, fat and skinny, receding and blessed with enough hair to thatch a tractor, country chaps parade their wares in a rainbow of mustard, pink, turquoise, orange, maroon and said chartreuse. The voltage rises with age, so that while a man of thirty may risk a flash of royal blue sock above a chestnut loafer, his retired colonel counterpart sports sunflower-yellow cords, a pink and green checked shirt and a slash of ruby-red knitwear with sublime disregard.

I’ve noticed the opposite is true in urban circles. Women and children: lime greens, shocking pinks, neon yellow hoodies and silver sandals. Men: navy, black and olive-green. The peacock / peahen thing is completely turned on its head. Odd. Thank goodness for Matt Smith, frankly.

On Easter morning I was wearing spearmint, orange, yellow, magenta, red, cream, pale pink and forest green. That was just the skirt. A turquoise biker jacket and purple handbag finished my ensemble. Safely one of the guys.


Ducks and Details


I have been noticing lots of tiny detail lately. Perhaps it’s the light and colour of the world at the moment, shocking after so much muted winter. Or maybe it’s that old adage: “Once an editor…”

This kicked off with Jan Gossaert’s Adoration of the Kings, caught on Saturday at the National Gallery in a breathless moment sandwiched between my train and my Mozart rehearsal. Wow. The heavy gold embroidery and wafty ermine trim on Melchior’s spectacular cloak, offset by the wrinkles in his bright red tights. The hairy wart on the kneeling king Caspar’s face. Balthasar’s crown. Oh my wombats, as Taya would say: that CROWN. And the red hoo-dad clothy whatnot with the artist’s name scrolled in gold! When I’m in the mood for absurd perfection, Gossaert hits every single duck in the firing range – much as I somehow did while legless at a college ball many years ago. Perhaps I should have had a stab at painting an ermine trim that night too.

The other detailed marvel of Saturday was Grinling Gibbons’ reredos at St James’s Piccadilly, venue for Surrey Voices and Mozart’s Requiem. It’s incredible that a human being with fingers and thumbs whittled this perfect thing, full of petals and knobbly seedpods and lots and lots of space in between the fine thread-like stems, all from a once-solid lump of lime wood. Unlike the ermine trim, I feel this would have been an irresponsible thing to have attempted on my duck-jackpot evening.

I concentrated on my own kind of details on Saturday night. Not singing “Rex!” at full volume on the first beat of the bar while everyone else sang it a beat later. Pelting through fantastically frilly runs of “Dona Eis Requiem” and “Christe Eleison” and ending on the same note as everyone else. Negotiating sneaky F-sharps looming at speed like oil spills halfway round Mario Kart’s Mushroom Cup.

It doesn’t make me a genius, but it’ll have to do.

All sung out


All sung out today, having given Guildford Cathedral a few songs for evensong last night with my choir Surrey Voices ( It’s a funny place, Guildford Cathedral. Sitting on its hill with views all around, it strikes me as rather lonely, peering hopefully down at the ant-sized world going about its frantic business below and rather hoping someone will come and talk to it and not be overly put off by its gigantic size and apparent scariness. Rather like the lovely picture book MR BIG, by  Ed Vere. Go and visit it if you’re passing, light a candle and say hi from me. Also read MR BIG, because that cat can play.

Is it just me, or does the Gloria bit of the Magnificat by Stanford sound like Bright Eyes?

Magnificat by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)

Bright Eyes, sung by Art Garfunkel