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Ancient and Modern

When I was in the choir at school
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 we used to sing from a tome entitled “Ancient and Modern”. It, as the name implies, is a collection of tunes and hymns, from olden-times to the fairly recent. We used to learn
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 anthems and other things as well and some of them were very jolly, rather than the staid old things from “A&M”.

 “  But that’s Carlisle, the other end of the country  
Our choirmaster was an indefatigable and enormously patient chap, particularly with the youngsters, and his wife baked some serious cakes, made mounds of sandwiches, gallons of tea and was also very pretty. Choir practice was optional but always fully attended, mainly as a welcome break from boarding-school food. Auditions for the choir became very difficult to pass through.

Due to the kind attentions of the choirmaster, but perhaps also due to the choirmaster’s wife’s excellent grub, the choristers became rather good. People actually paid to come and hear them sing. They were also invited to sing in various venues and then in the local cathedral in front of the Bishop.

The choristers themselves were now a good team, (probably weighing more than their schoolmates due to the large intake of “choir food”) and could sing much better than the rugby and football teams. As well as being able to sing rugby songs accurately, they could sing the same words in four-part harmony, (of course the choirmaster and his lady were unaware of this achievement by their ‘pride and joy’).

Inevitably, due to the success locally of this happy band of well-fed singers, the choir was invited away to sing at other cathedrals and venues. The choirmaster was delighted that he had been able to train the choir so well. The choir thought that a few days out of school on a ‘jaunt’ would be preferable to double-maths followed by double-physics followed by double-geography, followed by ‘prep’ with a bit of grey food in between and bed at 8.30 p.m. sharp.

The choirmaster accepted a few (fairly prestigious) local offers and then, ‘The Lord Bishop requests..’. “But that’s Carlisle, the other end of the country,” the choirmaster thought, how can we refuse, but how do we get there and where do we stay?

Of course his wife had the answer. “They can all go up by coach and stay in caravans. There are loads for rent up near the Lake District and after boarding school beds they will love it”. So the choirmaster set things in motion and a couple of weeks later the whole choir were indeed staying in caravans in the Lake District.

For many of the 30-odd choristers this was their first taste of caravans. A long weekend away from school, with a lot of friends, loads to eat (the choirmasters wife of course organised that) choir practice twice a day and free time for the rest of the day in a holiday environment, with perhaps the odd illegal cider for the older ones. They were all hooked.

In fact, to this day, the choir of this school take the annual trip to Carlisle Cathedral every year and sing their hearts out at choral evensong. They still stay in caravans too but these are a bit more up-to-date. I suspect the choristers have just as much fun now as they did 40 years ago.

They still sing hymns from “Ancient & Modern” in the cathedral but the tunes in the caravans are unlikely to come from that particular book after a few ciders.

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