POEM ON THE OCCASION OF THE RETIREMENT OF ROSALIND AND HELEN AFTER THIRTY YEARS WITH STRATHENDRICK SINGERS.
We started thirty years ago, when all the world was young.
We little knew what wealth of music waited to be sung.
With Rosalind as leader, to encourage and inspire,
And Helen on piano, we set off to build a choir.
We advertised for members, answered questions, manned the phone.
Ros ran auditions, seeking vocal quality and tone.
She didn’t always get it. Some folk couldn’t sing a note,
And others sounded rotten, as if rust had got their throat.
Most folk could tell by looking if the notes went up or down,
And at last we got a quorum who could make a decent sound.
Discussions as to uniform dragged on beyond belief.
The gentlemen got neckties, with a musical motif.
The ladies wanted class, a bit of elegance and taste,
So they chose pink gingham tablecloths that tied around the waist.
The early concerts weren’t great, but soon we got the hang
Of giving people pleasure with the music that we sang.
We practised in the Leisure Centre, every Monday night.
The acoustic was perfection, with those ceilings high and bright,
Tho’ with too few chairs, and too much playgroup furniture besides,
Latecomers sometimes had to sit on climbing frames and slides.
The council in their wisdom closed the Leisure Centre down,
So we sought rehearsal quarters in another part of town.
No designer talent could that old Church Hall embellish.
The low roof, drapes and carpet made the choir sound truly hellish.
At last a better venue in the Session House was found,
Where our voices soared, and made a fine ecclesiastic sound.
Though premises are vital, it’s the music that counts most.
Our track record of thirty years is one that few can boast.
Our repertoire is broadly based, and varied as to class,
From Scots Wha Hae and Jingle Bells to Bach’s B Minor Mass.
We’ve sung Bach in St. Giles – we made a good impression there.
We’ve dressed up like Victorians and carolled in George Square.
We took the village hall by storm with works by G. and S.,
As gondoliers and pirates in alluring fancy dress.
Our input into Songs of Praise was beautiful if brief.
We’ve done Faure in Falkirk, warbled Carl Orff in Crieff.
We’ve commissioned strange new music – a risk not for the squeamish.
We whispered, hummed and hit bells in the piece by Sally Beamish.
The roll call of composers’ work we’ve been inspired to sing
By Ros and Helen makes a list beyond imagining.
Beethoven, Vivaldi, Hummel, Schubert, Strauss and Wagner,
Mendelssohn, Poulenc, Durufle, Faure, Brahms and Bruckner,
Sullivan, Orlando Gibbons, Tallis, Elgar, Byrd,
JS Bach, and Buxtehude, Stainer and Stanford,
Gabrieli, Palestrina, Dvorak and Rossini,
Monteverdi, Haydn, Handel, Mozart and Puccini.
Such ambitious music would be sure to overwhelm
And sink us, but for Rosalind and Helen at the helm.
Now, Rosalind we know has got the talent to inspire.
Her leadership’s electric, full of energy and fire.
So none should be surprised if Holyrood put in a bid
To ask if they can wire her up to Scotland’s national grid.
She may require a podium, likewise her six inch heels,
But her demeanour lets us see exactly how she feels.
She lifts her eyebrows high to let the first sopranos know
That though they’re trying hard, they’ve still a little way to go.
She depends upon the altos, tells the tenors they are fine,
Shows great patience with the basses when they’re nowhere near their line.
BUT should you lose your timing, or a crucial entry botch,
You’ll incur the wrath of God, in shape of Rosalind yelling “WATCH!”
Now that she’s retired, no more she’ll lead Strathendrick’s choir.
She’ll stay at home on Monday nights, her slippers by the fire.
Her future lies before her, full of interest and fun.
Who knows what ploys and stratagems are even now begun.
Helen, on the other hand, has plans already honed.
She’s going to write a book entitled ‘Keyboards I Have Known.’
She’s played all sorts of instruments, in church and village hall,
With some notes sharp, and some notes flat, and some not there at all.
Some keyboards made the kind of sound that nobody enjoys,
Like that one in Gargunnock with the strange digestive noise.
She’s coped with ciphers, dodgy pedals, instant transposition,
Because she is that rarest thing, a consummate musician.
Most pieces put in front of her she’ll pick up from the start,
Though she’ll admit she’s never conquered quite ‘Waltz of my Heart.’
When we’re ready for the concert, Helen sings the alto line.
Of worry or uncertainty there’s never any sign.
Stuff we’ve spent three months slaving over she can read at sight.
In performance we may vacillate, but Helen will be right.
We’re going to miss them both so much. It’s very true to say
We’d rather that they stayed with us to sing another day.
But life is full of changes. They’ve got other fish to fry.
They’ll embark on fine new projects, their ambitions flying high.
Their family fun will multiply, their joys increasing daily.
Grandmotherhood sits well on them, with Anna, Finlay, Eilidh.
So thank you both for all the years of musical delight.
We raise our glasses, wishing you a future shining bright.
You’ve earned your place in all our hearts, among the great and good.
To Rosalind and Helen, with our love and gratitude.