Saturday, January 12, 2008


Well, thanks so much for all your additional linguistic advice to my youngest child. I shall pass it on.

Hmm… I’m not entirely convinced by those of you who diagnosed the patient in our little drama as having benign prostatic hypertrophy. Yes, I guessed that too, just because of the prostate-like bit of it but do you really know what a paraphymosis is, so as to rule it out? No, me neither. I asked the boy. “Um…,” he said delicately. “It’s an inflammation of the tissues under the foreskin.” (At least I think that’s what he said. I kind of rapidly lost interest. I don’t feel I’ll ever need to know in detail.)

Weeks ago, someone (and I can't remember who - sorry!) tagged me to reveal 5 pieces of music that mean a lot to me. So here I go. I do like some popular music if it has a pretty tune and interesting words – but it doesn’t mean nearly as much to me as … what I tend to think of as “proper” music. (“You’re such a musical snob, Mother,” says my boy (nicely). He calls me Mother only when I’m being bad.)

1. Holst’s “The Planets”. When I was 10, my parents bought a stereo record player and this was one of the two records they bought first. We all sat in our little living room with the huge speakers on specially-built shelves, and the room filled with that glorious sound which boomed startlingly into our ears from opposite corners.

2. The songs of Ivor Novello, for example “I can give you the starlight”. My dad was an excellent pianist and organist and, corny as it sounds, when I was a girl he used to play these songs and I would stand beside him and sing them – not very well, I should add: this particular song has a big range. I still love the words as well as the tune:

“I can give you the starlight,
Love unchanging and true,
I can give you the ocean,
Deep and tender devotion.
I can give you the moonlight,
Pools of shimmering blue,
Call and I shall be
All you ask of me,
Music in spring,
Flowers for a king,
All this I bring to you.”

I like the pattern of those rhymes. And of course, Mr Life has the same attitude as the chap in the song. Approximately. Or at any rate he brings me a cup of tea in bed first thing, which is more to my taste at that time of the morning than pools of shimmering blue.

3. “The Entrance of the Queen of Sheba” by Handel. We used to play this in the school orchestra. Our conductor, and my violin teacher, was a lovely man, Mr Watson – too lovely, since I was very lazy and didn’t practise enough and he was too nice to alarm me into diligence. But even I could play this well enough to merge into a reasonable performance. This piece always takes me back to our lunchtime rehearsals, with Mr Watson conducting and our HORRIBLE maths teacher patrolling the ranks of players and looking evil, a self-appointed guardian of our obedience.

4. Bach’s “St Matthew Passion”. I sang this with the university choir. Music that you learn, especially when you’re young, embroiders itself into your brain for ever. It’s perhaps the most glorious music I’ve ever sung; and I’ll never forget standing in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh as part of that big choir and helping to create that heartbreakingly beautiful sound.

5. The choir I now belong to is currently rehearsing Haydn’s “Harmoniemesse” . I had never heard of this before, and as so often happens when I hear complicated choral music for the first time, I listened to it on a CD and thought, ah yes, very nice. But when you learn it – really learn it by practising weekly with a choir – and every week you become more aware of the layers of sound from the different parts – it enriches your life for ever. See answer to number 4. When I’m a very old lady I shall be sitting there in my care home, plugged into earphones and singing along in my cracked, wobbly old voice as I listen to all the wonderful choral music I’ve learnt over the years. I’ll be transported out of my arthritis and failing vocabulary – and it’ll be one way of ensuring that I get a room of my own.

Does anyone want to be tagged? Loth of "The Gym's Not Working?" Joni of "Yummers"?

I'm whiling away the time waiting for the vinyl-layers to come and refloor our kitchen. They're supposed to arrive before 1 pm. They have 9 minutes. I need to get my washing machine plumbed in again or we will all run out of underwear.


  1. Excellent, I'll accept that tag with enthusiasm (although there will undoubtedly be some "improper" music in my selection!) Interesting selection as we would expect from you Isabelle. The Queen of Sheba is a favourite piece of mine too.

  2. Okay, I've been lurking here for a long time now, and I'm not even sure if I've ever commented or not. But you've touched on something I love in this post - music. While I have to admit I've never heard it, I thought that "I Can Give You The Starlight" sounds like a really beautiful song, whether it's sung by a child or an old woman in her own room at the care home, LOL ...

    Good luck with the flooring!

  3. I am very glad that I did not do a google search on that medical term...

  4. Classical music was on all the time when I was growing up. The Planets was one of the favorites. I used to be able to name them all as I heard them. I tease my dad that I know only the bass line of hundreds of classical pieces as the boom boom was mostly what we could hear from our beds in the evening. LOL

  5. Ah music ... balm for the soul indeed. Being a bit of a philistine in this department, I only recognised one piece ... so must amend the new year resolution list ... Hope your kitchen is revinyled by now and everything in its place behaving itself. Including the catlets.

  6. Wasn't me Isabelle, but I wish it had been. This is wonderful, I don't remember you writing about singing and your choir before, you do so with real passion. I wouldn't at all mind sharing your room at the care home!

  7. I so enjoyed reading about your musical selections (not to mention seeing the adorable pic of the catlets!) I'm now thinking that I should join a choir (although I haven't been in one since I was a child) in order to insure my private room in The Home. Hoping you have a clean underwear week!

  8. I remember when my parents got their first stereo too, and the record they first played on it was the "World's most glorious melodies" and I still have it today.

    As a schoolgirl, I sang in the Messiah, the Creation, and the Elijah, and even though I have sung in many more choral performances over the years, I still remember those first 3 and the glorious music.

  9. There is some kind of serendipity at work today...I have just finished posting about my chapel choir experience many years ago...swing over here and discover your reflections on choral singing!

    I love that idea that you shall be sitting there in your old-age home, plugged into earphones and singing along in a cracked, wobbly old voice!! (Waaaaaaay into the future, of course...)

  10. Black cats and the dark don't really go well together. do they?? I am glad you found him! Yes, I am taking your suggestions very seriously at the moment, and all those doubts I had are coming back to haunt me. Getting up in the morning and beginning to have headaches as soon as one gets dressed is not a good sign.

  11. Love the lines you quoted.....And your hidden agenda for playing all your music in your home for the aged. I'll have to call you "mother!" in a very severe voice for that!

  12. I'm glad that you have such a great memory of singing in the Usher Hall. We are currently closed for a major refurbishment but will be open again later this year so I hope that you still come to hear concerts. Karl Chapman, General Manager

  13. Thanks for the tag about favorite music, but I'm doing a Valentine's Day traditions series and I don't know how to work that in. But for your info I am very fond of Contemporary Christian music, Cole Porter, Vivaldi, The Beatles, and music by the old group Chicago.
    Isn't that eclectic?? But that's what I put on my ipod as dance around the house.

    I wish your son a wonderful experience in New Zealand. Love all his medical jargon!
    Happy 2008!

  14. It must be, that our childhood memories of music form very strong assiciations. I grew up hearing classical music, & love tenor voices the most, singing opera. My mother hated sopranos, & I can still hear her calling them screeching hussies! I like them myself, & I seem to love most classical music.

  15. Your Queen of Sheba mention reminded me of singing Solomon with the university choir in the 1980s. Our young conductor said it always made him think of the Queen visiting a town, and all the officials beforehand running around sweeping and painting the railway station! It is such BUSY music.
    I am still singing and still needing my Handel fixes