Sunday, December 24, 2006

This Christmas I'll be a child again


I don't think there are any boys for whom the singing is a deep religious experience.

My mother says I was born three weeks late and that it was typical of me.

Talking one's way out of fights is a very useful skill. Once a mugger said, 'Give me your iPod' and I said, 'I'd rather not', and he said, 'Well, I'd rather not hit you', and I said, 'Oh come on', and he was a bit confused by that and then said, 'How much money have you got?', and I said 'Oh, only a couple of quid', so he thought a bit more and then walked off. Another time a chav on crutches tried to mug me.

I have a weird feeling when I look at myself or my reflection. 'How can that work?' That I exist and am conscious of myself and things move when I want them to move. It's pretty weird. My parents could have created countless different people. Yet they created me, Maud and Tolly.

The biggest cheque I've received from Westminster Abbey is £260, for the year which included various tours and the death of the Queen Mother. It's all in a high-interest account.

As you approach the end of a hymn it's like everyone in the congregation is holding their breath before they can begin coughing, sneezing, rustling or fidgeting.

Having milk or chocolate the night before a concert is not advised, because it coats the throat.

To be called a faker - faking off, faking a cold - is a big insult among chorists.

Ben the Westminster verger can always be relied upon to tell a couple of good, random, really, really bad jokes as you line up waiting in the cloisters. Like, 'How do you stop a rhino charging? Take away its credit card.'

There's a knack to carrying a candle. It basically involves a firm grip, not moving your hand around and keeping it on the exact level with the candle of the person adjacent to you.

You don't break down in tears when your voice finally breaks and you can't sing treble any more. You can stay on at school for the rest of the year and wear a different, stripy tie. And it feels cool and manly to sing down low. I'm not a bad baritone.

There's regular school choir service and local church choir this Christmas and I get to go back to Westminster Abbey, but I feel I may never be as 'famous' as I was until 14.

It's important to have a straight back, a straight neck, to look and sing up and out (never at the congregation) and to not shift your weight because the swaying is more noticeable than you think.

The best place to sing at home is in the living room, if my sister's not in there, or in my bedroom with the window open, so it has somewhere to go.

Historically the dean has all the choir schoolboys over to his house at Christmas, for murder in the dark, sardines, a treasure hunt and wrapping each other up in toilet paper as mummies. But this Christmas I'll get to be a child again at home and have a wonderful meal at Grandma's.

We had a nasty scare last year when the hospital phoned to say my grandfather was dead. But it turned out they'd made a mistake. Mother texted the message 'Grandpa not dead after all.'

I used to support QPR - but then I actually went and saw them play.
(That link, and the definition of chav, is for my many US readers - Pliable.)

I was named after a Jacobite ancestor [Dr Archie Cameron] who was hung, drawn and quartered - on my birthday.

For Christmas last year my parents gave me ... hmmm ... I've forgotten. I want nothing specific this year. But if it's an Xbox 360, I'm not complaining.


Lovely Christmas piece from today's Observer. Now, as we celebrate Peace on earth, read about the German choristers from the Kreuzchor who sung in the Dresden Requiem for eleven young victims. The boys of the Kreuzchor also supply the photographs for this article.

Picture credits: Header Berliner Morgenpost, footer Dresden Kreuzchor. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

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