Bow ties, cricket and close harmony


This month has been notable for singing. The Wye Valley Chorus, with whom I sing songs in the barbershop style took part in the Herefordshire Festival last week. We were pitted against one other choir in our class on Tuesday night, singing “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Yesterday” with camp actions and sentimental yearning respectively. Winning the class, as we eventually did, was less memorable for me than the vignette with which I was briefly presented shortly before our performance at the Hereford Cathedral School.

Having arrived at the wrong venue, we eventually turned up at the school and were ushered into an old fashioned gymnasium, about a hundred feet long, with high ceilings and windows with a pair of cricket nets at the far end. As we came in our rivals were changing, some standing bare-legged as they put on formal white shirts and bow ties. We did likewise, then started warming up by singing some old favourites as two of our number bowled cricket balls in the nets. At one point I stopped and pondered the scene: bare legged men in shirts and bow ties, a huddle of nervous men singing barbershop songs in an echoey (I know that’s not in the dictionary but you find an alternative) acoustic while others bowled overarm at non-existent batsmen.

Looking back on it I can better appreciate its mild absurdity. I’m beginning to think that Proust was right to suggest that we miss so much in everyday life that can intrigue, amuse and enlighten, if only we would take the trouble to look.

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