If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

What Goes A Round ...

A friend sent me a link to this, and I wanted to put it here.

It's a round, a bit like Frère Jaques, but the pauses have been timed to give a very pleasant off-beat effect, and there's a nice little trick when all four voices come together.

The friend who sent it to me reminded me of a group we used to belong to, way back in 1972-ish when we were at University together. We were the Bryn Teg Male Voice Choir, named with deliberate pomposity from the student house we shared at the time. There were three-and-a-half of us, all into Copper Family-type folk music, Steeleye Span, sea shanties and all that finger-in-the-ear stuff. The hardcore three were a bass and two tenors - one middle and one high - and the extra one was a chap who lived in the same house (but was a year above us and had a very different timetable and priorities), who chipped in when it seemed appropriate and filled out the middle of whatever harmonic gaps there happened to be. None of us could read music, but I had memories of Grade 1 piano when I was 11, so we worked something out. Most of the time, fairly obviously, it was in three parts, but when we got a fourth part in it was like another dimension. Knowing chords from playing the guitar helped, too, as the harmonic structures of what was fairly simple music became clear and understandable.

We practised frequently (the guy singing bass used to brew his own beer, so there was no shortage of volunteers to sing at his house) and used to sing publicly at the Folk Club every few weeks. It was scruffy, beery music, short on accuracy and tone, but very good on atmosphere and commitment. Having to work out all the harmonies from listening to records, and occasionally inventing our own for songs that didn't have a ready source to copy from, gave me an understanding and appreciation of harmony that has stayed with me for life.

The original building of the University at Bangor is (or was then) wonderful Victorian structure, full of dark oak panels and tiled corridors. It was called, in those days, Top College. We discovered a place which hardly anyone else ever visited -the Gents' toilets in the basement of Top Coll. This was a vast space, tiled from floor to ceiling in white. The acoustics were brilliant, and we often met here between lectures for an impromptu rehearsal. Three of us sounded like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in there. Truly happy days.

There is something about making music with other people - just the voice you were born with, no instruments or technology - which is indescribably good. When the notes fit and the rhythms are in time, it's a feeling of togetherness that can't be achieved in any other way. You feel it in the chest and in the head. I found it later in life by singing with some quite serious choirs, but the Male Voice Choir and Don's home-brew was where it all started. And of course, Steeleye Span's A Rosebud In June has led to performing in works which are now part of me, such as Brahms' German Requiem and Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

Anyway, enough wittering. Here's Liverpool Street Station:

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