'Well, dad, don't have sung "The Three Bells" again, thank you,' I said. 'I have to sing it for a wedding in Aldeburgh on Saturday.'
Do you know about the lullaby test for singers that are the children of singers? As an adult when I learned "Kathleen", "Fly Home Little Heart" and "Myfanwy" I cried like an old lady. I later found out that my father had sung all of these to me as lullabies. They passed - or should that be failed? - the Lullaby Test. Sobbing makes singing difficult. Take "Les Trois Cloches". Having made abortive attempt after abortive attempt to sing it through I rang my father.
‘Dad, did you used to sing me "Les Trois Cloches" as "The Ballad Of Jimmy Brown"?’
‘I did, yes. And the chapel bells were ringing, from…’
I told him to retrospectively cease and desist in future. 'So far I can’t get past There’s A Village Hidden Deep In The Valley without lying on the floor moaning in the foetal position. And I need the money.’
I was so poor at the time I said yes to the bass soloist part in Haydn’s Creation for Framlingham College. Knowing that I didn't have the low notes for By Heavy Beasts the Ground is Trod, I took two choir basses to one side.
‘Beers on me afterward, lads, if every time my part dips below this note here, C, you put your copies in front of your faces and join in with me.’
My low notes that night sounded like approaching District Line trains.
Sad that during the interval I put my collar up to adjust my bow tie, forgot to put it down again and sang part two apparently wearing a Comfy Dog cone healing collar.
The last time I'd been quite so poor as to need to bribe sixth formers to sing my low F sharps for me was when I was just out of Guildhall and agreed to play Heinrich von Kugelschreiber in Crump’s Christmas Cracker. Heinrich was visiting the arriviste Crump family at Crumpham Hall with his aunt Agathe at Christmas in 1935. I accompanied songs on the Crump's new Bechstein - all from music as I have a terrible memory - sang SIlent Night, then morphed into Madame Galina to perform "The Dance of the Electric Fairy".
Along with some notes on our characters, Val, the director of Crump's Christmas Cracker, explained her concept of the revue format:
'The songs must drop naturally and with a satisfying metaphorical click into place in the dramatic arc of the narrative.'
This is what she meant by that:
Lester Crump, host, asked Heinrich's aunt Agathe if she had seen anything interesting since they last partied together.
‘Oh, yes indeed,’ she replied, ‘I have been to see that new-as-paint opera with all the black peoples in it.'
'Do sing us something from it, dear Agathe!'
Cue for "Summertime".
‘And has anybody heard from John and Audrey Christie recently?’
‘Oh, yes: surely you knew? They’ve only gone and opened an opera house in their back garden.’
‘Where do they live again?’
Cue for the trio from Cosí Fan Tutte.
‘And where did you first meet your lovely new bride, Alan?’
‘On the Isle of Capri.’
Cue for "The Isle of Capri"...
During the interval one night a couple rifled through my scores ready in order on the music rest, apparently to see if there was anything really worth staying for in the second half. They decided not. And didn't replace the scores as they had found them. When it came to it, "The Isle of Capri" had apparently done a Brigadoon.
The cast, thinking I’d simply forgotten what song came here, tried to help with some felicitous ad-libbing:
‘And was it nice on The Isle Of Capri?’
‘Yes, The Isle Of Capri was lovely.’
‘I’ve never been to The Isle Of Capri.’
‘Oh, haven’t you ever been..to The Isle Of Capri?’
‘No, never. To the Isle Of Wight, to the Isles of Scilly, but not to The Isle Of Capri.’
‘It doesn’t much look like we’re going to make it to The Isle Of Capri this evening, either.’
I interrupted here. 'Are you sure it was The Isle of Capri you went to, Alan?'
Alan stared glassy-eyed at me. 'Do you know, come to think of it...'
'Might it not have been...'
I was puzzling and puzzling for an appropriate song that I could play by heart.
For one night only, however, Alan and his future wife ended up having met at that celebrated, romantic landmark: "My Grandfather's Clock".