Saturday, 1 March 2014

Faith is.....

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

This quote cropped up today and I couldn't resist writing about it.

I don't think my parents could have known what they were doing to me when they gave me that name. I never liked the sound of it, could not live up to its implications, and once I got to Germany I was around people who could not even pronounce properly, the "th" not being a sound native to the German language.

My favourite distortion was "Faitz" spellt "Fätz" by an elderly lady who once sent me a postcard. The "Z" as in Tschaikowsky (I cannot think of an exact English description of the sound involved) is a real punchline as it cannot be spoken anatomically without a lot of noise, even spitting!

Then I started conducting amateur choirs. They wanted to sing in English. In fact, singing in German was often embarrassing for them, as they got on better just working phonetically and not bothering too much about the sentiments, which are often trite and sticky-sweet in English language pop music. Not that gospels and spirituals are much better. The high religiosity and fervour cannot be attained by Germans, and many have problems with the rhythms, but I think the worst part of it all was actually getting the phonetics right. The "v" as in "very" is also a challenge here. And "w" is actually pronounced like "very", so what was the problem? Spirituals like "Wade in the water" came out "vvvväde in zuh Vvvvvvvvvattttteee". Pretty ghastly and I could see it happening because in a "v", the lips don't make an English "w" (as in wonderful). And I cannot count the number of times I shouted "bosom" correcting "bohzzzohm" to bosom pronounced properly. What a good thing I was only shouting in English. If I had screamed "Brüste" in German to 90 odd singers and over and over again, even I would probably have been embarrassed.

Happy days? Some of them, But soon they will be in the past. I will retire from chorus directing at the end of June. I never really thought that would happen. I will have been directing and arranging and invented all the choruses over 23 years. All gone in a puff of smoke....

So will I miss all that drumming notes into skulls, trying to get some coordination and quality in the singing? I'm not sure. One lady announced that standards were not important since it was only a "hobby chorus". I did not agree and don't agree that something you do for fun does not have to have standards, and they can be high, if there is enough enthusiasm and ambition. But that lady - who has left the chorus now - did not understand. She was only there because it amused her (and damn the others except for the chit-chat), as one other lady blurted out once (a long time ago in a different chorus) that she was there to have her fun, and that was all that mattered.

So all in all, I spent 23 years' energy trying to get something more out of "hobby" singers than they would have been satisfied with. There were exceptions to this rule, but not enough! Sad really, but it will make retirement easier.