Tenor or Bass?

February 28, 2009

I once failed an audition with the Philharmonia Chorus, because, they claimed, I “could not decide” which my voice was. It was a blessing, in as much as I would never have been able to leave work early enough to make the rehearsals at 18:00. Their reason was total rot.

Meanwhile, I joined a local choir, and was a heaven sent tenor. I cannot be sure but the fact that I was there might have induced the conductor to try Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonelle, a bigish work needing only a piano and a harmonium in its original orchestration. This is code for cheap to put on. The full orchestration was stipulated by Rossini only to be used after his death.

This apparent madness of the conductor meant that while every other section was note-bashed through the work, and, I admit, put up a creditable performance in the end, because I already knew the work, I sailed through the thing, and was occasionally asked during rehearsal if I was OK. There must have been at least one other tenor, but I don’t recall, and in any case he learnt the part from me.

I left that choir over another concert which was a disaster, (due to the conductor) and then they asked me to put hand in pocket for their future…

I struggle to make the 19:30 rehearsals in the choir I do sing in now. I am officially a Bass, but I volunteered to sing Tenor on more than one occasion, and proved that I could do it – very few basses can reach tenor top A, or even sing low alto parts. All these efforts are officially ignored, even when I volunteered (tenors are rare beasts). One one occasion, I did transfer to sing first bass (a considerably different line) on the day, due to sudden illness of a lead singer; this conductor realised that I had the range and would have learnt the part or able to learn it during the dress rehearsal.

On occasion I still sing the tenor line (from the bass section), especially on works I know better as a tenor than a bass – and that is a surprisingly large number. The current concert, tonight, is a case in point; I remember the tenor line from heart, I have to read (or even, as my colleagues jest, due to lack of rehearsals sight-read) the line. And the tenors are in dire need of reinforcement, there being one good singer in the section, plus some followers.

No sleep last night.

February 26, 2009

07:25. Only four hours sleep on Tuesday night, I got up at 05:00. True I did doze a little in the day, but it was 04:00 before I even thought to try to sleep; no luck at all. If you don’t count the dozing, which can only have been for minutes at a time, been awake 26 hours and counting – and a long day ahead

UPDATE, 23:30 Well, dozed a bit in the morning, and was fighting against dropping off during extra choir rehearsal in the evening, the big question is will I get any sleep tonight.

Red Cowslip

February 26, 2009

First visible buds on red cowslip in greenhouse.

First visible buds on red cowslip in greenhouse.

Two reasons for posting this photo now. Firstly, it’s the last of the photos from last weekend’s visit to Mother’s and the greenhouse. Secondly, I’m trying to stay up late, to be tired enough to sleep tonight (unlike last night’s three hours, leaving me drowsy all day).

This year it looks as if the red cowslip has naturally divided into two crowns, and it’s rather too late to split them now. But the flower buds are there.

I did not look underneath the “red hot poker” plant to see the mother plant in the front garden, although the poker plant would have given it welcome protection during the early February cold weather.

For the record, in the greenhouse at present are:

This red cowslip; scented pelargoniums/geraniums; cymbidium orchid; five cacti plants (one unfortunately looking unwell); three other types of geranium plants, a potted lavender, a potted rosemary (not looking well), flowering aliums, edible aliums (Garlic, variety “Music”, supposed to be really garlically) and some dahilas and lilies that are just being overwintered. Plus the wormery.


February 25, 2009

I first purchased a Moth orchid for Mother’s birthday in early January 2008, and another one “on offer” soon afterwards, which was in a poor state. Initially the second one revived, but I got the temperature conditions wrong, and soon both died. I then took some better advice.

Flash photo of flower on end of spike.

Flash photo of flower on end of spike.

I purchased another one “on offer” in May 2008. The photo above was taken on Sunday. It has flowered continuously since May, on the original flower spike (although it split into three, and one branch has died off), and it looks as if it developing 2 more flower buds. OK, these are now single flowers on the end of long stalks. But the leaves are big and healthy, there is a root spike looking to explore further. The plant is kept about 3 feet inside the room from a south facing window, in what is the only centrally heated room at Mother’s. The greenhouse would be far too cool in winter.

I realise that this nine-month flowering is by no means a record, maybe not even a record from a single spike.

Scented Pelagoniums

February 24, 2009


At present there are two sented pelagoniums or geraniums in the greenhouse. “Attar or Roses” I purchased last year, and has been in gentle flower pretty much all the time since then. I am surprised to see it still flowering (see photo) at this time of the year.


I’m even more surprised, and possibly a little worried, to see the “Lemon Fancy” come into bud. It’s much earlier than last year, and normally I’m sure it’s flowered during the summer. The greenhouse is not being kept that warm! I particularly like the scent of this one, a strong lemon scent that reminds me of lemon shebert.


From being in bud last week, yesterday the first flower spike of the Cymbidium was in full flower.

There is a reasonable amount to report, but due to work (on a Sunday night, that is how desperate it is), I’ll just have to trail some of the items to appear in the next week:

Cymbidium first spike in bloom;
Some Pleonies growing strongly; nothing from others…;
Moth orchid still in flower 9 months after purchase (on original flower spike);
Geraniums in flower and flower bud (in February);
Music and concert;

I’m writing this while some parts sit in front of the electric fire to dry them out after washing, as soon as they are, I’ve got to glue them together, so the glue sets overnight, thence the next job tomorrow am, when I resort to “Araldite Rapid” for the job, not as good, but sets so fast as to allow me to finish the job and despatch it the same day.

Saab Automotive

February 20, 2009

A Classic Saab 900

A Classic Saab 900

This evening it was announced that Saab Automotive of Sweden had gone into administration. Its parent company (only since 1992), General Motors (GM) of the US, is in a bad way – as are pretty well all car companies.

I’ve owned two Saabs. I knew how good they were, which is why, second time around, I was prepared to buy a three year old Saab with 125000 miles on the clock. I’ve added another 110000 miles in the following 13 or so years, though I am now getting failures due to the high mileage – such as the gearbox transplant incident, fuel pump, alternator (multiple times).

I feel their early years as a subsiduary of GM were a disaster – a quote from Saab in about 1997 was that the low pressure turbo version of my car (16v injection) was the “best car they had ever made” makes me think they thought so too. The replacement model, also called 900, was based on the Vauxhall Cavalier, a car that I had also owned, and knew what a dog it was. The more recent models look better, but I am wary of any modern car due to the vast amounts of electronics under the bonnet.

Strange to relate, but I’m thinking about getting a Mercedes, of the same age as my current car, as its replacement. Mercedes spare parts are generally cheaper than Saab ones, I have found from experience, even if the value of a similar type of car of the same age is the other way around.

Recent NAS advert

February 15, 2009

(C) National Autistic Society...Borrowed

(C) National Autistic Society...Borrowed

This image was used in magazine adverts for the National Autism Society’s “Think Differently” campaign.

There were a number of points regarding the background of this picture that struck me. Some points are not clear in the image above, but were in the full sized A4 adverts (this was the only image I could find on the net).

At this stage, I put on my anorak.

Firstly, the train is a Diesel Multiple Unit, specifically a Class 121 model in the colours of the unit owned by the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway (third photo in that blog entry).

Secondly, the destination board. It shows stations such as Chinnor, Bledlow and Wainhill. As it happens, these are real “stations”, (two are actually unused halts) on the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway. I thought that the line did not yet reach Princes Risborough, although there is agreement in principle with Network Rail for the line to run to the station. However, the station could be Princes Risborough (assuming keeping everything local), being the only one big enough to have platforms with overhangs, destination boards etc. Perhaps a temporary line (the old Oxford line) has been re-laid, to the junction with the Chinnor… allowing the 121 onto a mainline platform – probably not just for this photoshoot. Part of the agreement has the Chinnor and… build a new platform at Princes Risborough station. The list of destinations on the board (in fact all the stations and halts on the extant line) is in fact an impossibility for passenger traffic at present, whatever temporary solutions are adopted. It would be interesting to find out why the decision was made to list these stations, as opposed to any list of main-line stations on the Chiltern line or indeed any other line.

Interestingly, Chiltern Railways also have a class 121 DMU, which runs a shuttle between Aylesbury and Princes Risborough, updated to modern standards required for mainline working. Thus, one day, Princes Risborough will be the one place where a working and a preserved Class 121 DMU can both be seen.

The trackbed of the line that the Chinnor and…. railway now runs along part of runs past Chinnor towards Aston Rowant. There is one major obsticle that they would have were they to push the line as far as Aston – the M40 motorway just before it climbs through the Chiltern escarpment., and the railway would need a tunnel under the motorway in approximately the foreground of the view of the pic in the recent posting.

Update, 22:10 Apparently Chinnor station has been used in the TV series Midsomer Murders, a John Nettles vehicle, I believe. Now I have made a study of this rebuilt Chinnor Station building, being a recreation of the original GWR station. Perhaps more anon.

I did not mention earlier, but the idea that, in future, being able to catch a train from London Marylebone to Princes Risborough, and changing there for Chinnor (on the Chin…….) line has an alure, something to be done in 1920s fashion. And would make that station announcement board be at least not impossible, if rather implausable for a running railway.

Kicking myself

February 14, 2009

I should have remembered, I had looked it up.

(C) A1 Steam Locomotive Trust...Borrowed..

(C) A1 Steam Locomotive Trust...Borrowed..

Today, 60163 Tornado made its first two tours from London, one from Waterloo and one from Victoria. Both ran around here, passing through (in no order) Barnes, Feltham, Hounslow, Acton, Staines and other stations near to where I live. I had aimed to go to watch it, but I forgot it was running today. GRRRRR…..

For those who don’t know, Tornado is the first main-line steam locomotive built in Britain [apart from the boiler] for 50 years. The history can be read from the web site. However, there is a family connexion to the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), via my maternal grandfather. The still existing engines such as Flying Scotsman (4476), and Mallard were built and ran while he was involved. I’ve seen, and have (film) photos of both these engines in Steam, running through where I used to live in the 1980s. Flying Scotsman spun its wheels as it pulled out of the station, while Mallard seemed much more dignified, no wheel spin and its whistle was also, somehow, more refined. Mallard still has the world record for the fastest Steam engine pulling a train (set in 1936). Must try and scan the photo prints to post here.

Neither of these latter engines have a current boiler certificate, so are museum pieces.

I think I also have photos of Golden Arrow in steam running out to the Chiltern escarpment – the same route as the other old engines were taking; I certainly remember chasing it out to towards Princes Risborough, and admiring how graceful and even easy she made it look.

The Peppercorn engines were built by the nationalised LNER part of British Railways, and thus carried the British Railways logo.