Monday, 22 November 2010

Musical Monday: St Cecilia

As some of you know, I like to think I'm a bit of a musician. Although not trained (beyond pseudo-grade six piano) I've been fortunate enough to be among the backing singers for Sir Paul McCartney and Lesley Garrett, to sing several times at the BBC Proms and to perform at Notre Dame, Paris and Chartres Cathedrals. I'd recommend anyone with an interest in music to become a singer: you get sit behind a professional, trained and fully paid-up orchestra and make recordings and broadcasts as well as sing with big star soloists and work with conductors of almost God-like status. And all for a bit of warbling, albeit in tune (mostly) and following the dots quite closely. It really is a wonderful way to piggy-back a pro-musical career: you get the glory, and none of the hard work. Well, hardly. Anyway, today is the feast day of the Patron Saint of music, one Cecilia by name who legend has it staved off martyrdom (temporarily) by singing God's praises. Jolly well done, I'd say.

Nearer to home, one William Byrd (sometime organist of Lincoln Cathedral, where I occasionally do some of my singing) wrote eight reasons why everyone should sing, which I reproduce below:

1. It is a knowledge easely taught and quickly learned, where there is a good Master and an apt Scoller.
2. The exercise of singing is delightfull to Nature and good to preserve the health of Man.
3. It doth strengthen all parts of the brest, and doth open the pipes.
4. It is a singular good remedie for stammering in the speech.
5. It is the best meanes to procure a perfect pronunciation, and to make a good Orator.
6. It is the onely way to know where Nature hath bestowed the benefit of a good voyce; which guift is so rare as there is not one among a thousand that hath it; and in many that excellent guift is lost because they want Art to express Nature.
7. There is not any Musicke of Instruments whatsoever comparable to that which is made of the voyces of men, where the voyces are good and the same well sorted and ordered.
8. The better the voyce is, the meter it is to honour and serve God therewith; and the voyce of man is chiefely to be employed to that ende.

He also wrote this sublime five part mass, which it has been my pleasure to perform.

And to sum up, he said:

Since singing is so good a thing,
I wish all men would learne to sing.

And we might add, women. And children. In fact, everyone. It's been shown that singing releases endorphins, helps the breathing, eases anxiety and depression and gets people moving.

So what are you waiting for?

Get singing!
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