Thursday, 18 December 2014

Not the Nine Lessons Three: Nativity Play

I got into a tiny bit of trouble yesterday by appearing to be rather snooty about choirboys and the excellent King's College Choir. But nothing could be further from the truth.

I'm all for musical excellence and the sound of a traditional choir can be - can be - one of the great joys of musical life. It can also, in the wrong hands, with the wrong voices, be rather painful. In fact, that goes for all singing from X-Factor wannabes to choristers-who-should-never-be.

I purport to be something of a singer myself and not just in the bath. In fact, I love the human voice with a passion. It is the greatest of instruments and I'm an evangelist for the social and medical benefits of singing as an activity.

So, for my third alternative carol (of nine) I thought I'd share an example of the kind of thing I mean. Here's the excellent Taverner Choir with a carol that comes all the way from Boston. (That's Boston, Mass, btw.)

The composer - William Billings - sounds to have been quite a character, described by an eighteenth-century contemporary as 'a singular man... short of one leg and with only one eye.' But let's not hold that against him. His wonderful carol, Methinks I See an Heavenly Host nicely encapsulates my personal belief that everyone can and should sing - but that they should wholeheartedly embrace whatever voice they've got and not try to 'sing' in a particular manner. (Think Hilda Ogden warbling while cleaning or indeed, most if not all contestant on the X-Factor!)

This is rustic, rough-and-ready and racy and about as far removed from the ethereal sound of King's, Cambridge as I can imagine. And it's magnificent.

And today's lesson is also about as far removed from King's as it can be: it's a short poem by Claire Bevan which might strike a chord with every parent of small children involved in the annual performance of primary school nativity plays...

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