Wednesday, 19 December 2012

An unexpectedly entertaining carol service

Last night we attended the school’s annual carol service, an impressive and traditional event in a large parish church that includes readings, audience singing of hymns, and musical interludes from two choirs and a six piece brass ensemble. 


The first glorious performance is always ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ with solo soprano boy’s voice.  Although, annoyingly, there were still latecomers arriving onto our balcony seating area as the music started. 


As the audience joined in at the appropriate point, I was startled to hear a rich, trained, deep baritone voice from the row behind me, away to my left.  Looking around, I realised it was a former student come back from university to attend the service.  I remember that this boy always sang in all of the school’s concerts and vocal ensembles, and it was a delight to hear his rich enunciation and powerful true tones.


The latecomers got themselves settled and we had a couple of readings and some performances from the choir.  Then it was time for the next audience-participation carol.


I listened with anticipation for the lovely baritone and he did indeed start singing, but suddenly from behind me came a loud but reedy man’s voice, in a somewhat higher register.  It was one of the latecomers:  an older man (sixties?) who had taken a seat directly behind me, sharing the same almost-empty pew as the baritone with a gap of about four feet between them.


Older-guy seemed to feel competitive because he became louder and louder along with the baritone’s powerful voice. Only Older-guy wasn’t content to just sing the melody.  Older-guy was being very inventive and singing lots of descants and harmonies and trills – only not very well, not always in tune with the music, and with occasional cracking of his voice.


Baritone-guy got louder and so did Older-guy (still trilling) until the two of them were virtually bellowing along to the song, and by then I was trying so hard not to laugh that my programme was shaking.  But youth will win out: Older-guy was running out of steam by the end of the song, and I would say Baritone-guy took that round.


For the next few audience songs, Older-guy seemed to have settled down, and was more or less singing along with Baritone-guy (both still fairly loud). 


But then we reached ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’, with its final verse traditionally sung at full pelt with choir soaring above the audience with wonderful harmonies and the brass instruments following suit.  Baritone-guy was obviously prepared and upped his already loud volume by about 25%.  Older-guy, determined not to be outdone, also upped his volume considerably (although it was a strain for him and his voice was cracking a bit) and started crazy harmonies again. 


With both of them bellowing along in full voice, they were so loud that they were actually hurting my ears and completely drowning out the entire brass section and the c.30-member choir so that we couldn’t hear any of the harmonies.  It was like a wall of sound blasting us from behind and completely ludicrous. I was outright laughing by this point but also a bit annoyed that we couldn’t hear the choir and brass.


At the end of the concert, I watched to see if the two singers would interact, but they completely ignored each other and departed the pew in opposite directions.


So a much more entertaining carol service than usual, although not for the best reasons.  I couldn’t help thinking that Baritone-guy is going to be an embarrassment to his wife and children once he has them, and Older-guy probably already has been.   I also wonder if Older-guy fancies himself the leading light of his local church but when I suggested that to DH, it was met with the alternate suggestion that Older-guy has been kicked out of all the local churches and thus has to come to show off at a school carol service…


Merry Christmas, and may your carol services be equally enjoyable.


Mad about Craft said...

What a hoot!! but annoying at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Made me laugh :)

Daisy said...

Hilarious!! And I've just realised I haven't actually been to a carol service this year!

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