Shirley Murray’s touching hymn based on Away in a Manger has moved me to propose including it in our Barbershop Christmas Carol presentation in a few days. The association of everyone’s memories of that particular melody with some concern for a refugee baby on a sinking raft in the Mediterranean is profound.
Oh, dear, what a fuss. Our manager has apparently heard from “several” members who object. Some apparently need to practice the tune first. So he has decided we will not sing it. One member who obviously know it well emailed me personally to say that she will NOT sing any other words to that tune.
All a little frustrating when, for three years, I have tried to suggest that we might sing something a little more relevant to the season and, hopefully, a little more theologically sound than the repertoire of the average shopping centre. But to no avail.
Now a slightly provocative step on my part has outraged our musical fundamentalists. One defended her position by saying, “We’ve got to allow for differences of opinion”. Pardon me, what about some allowance for my difference of opinion? Wouldn’t the Chorus be just a little disadvantaged if I said —
**I will NOT sing anything that doesn’t meet my personal standards of respectability.
**I will NOT help to set out the rehearsal room and bring in the keyboard every week if we are going to sing about the passionate affairs of young lovers.
**I will NOT print music sheets that enable the Chorus to promote mythical, out-dated views of the birth of Jesus.
**I will NOT spend hours on the computer preparing a power point with words for the Christmas audience to sing if I happen to think that the words are mostly untruthful and generally misleading.
But I understand that Barbershop is a community. It recognises that differences of opinion exist among its members as much as the differences in their singing style and range. But it knows that the best result is achieved when our personal views about the music and words are subsumed into a whole that gives pleasure to the singers as well as the listeners.
Not a bad message for Christmas, actually. A pity that our Chorus can’t quite demonstrate that message instead of just singing another verse of “Hark, the herald angels sing”.
Now, hang on a bit: those are revised words: what Charles Wesley actually wrote was “Hark, how all the welkin rings”. That’s what the musical fundamentalists should be singing in 2016...