Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Cut-Rate Grand Tour, Day One, Part One-- Introduction

I'm breaking my entry of the first day of my 1988-89 Christmas holiday journal into two parts, because the first of it happens entirely at the college in Oxford. I have the fanciful idea that it would be amusing for you to see the helter-skelter way I began my trip, and what I was, for a month, departing from.

The contemporary record doesn't include an account of the weekend immediately before the start of vacation, and a few words on it might provide illumination both on my state of body and mind and on some events later on in my European trip.

Saturday the 3rd I took part in a performance of the Berlioz Te Deum with a group known as the Oxford Classical Chorus, but it was really the Keble College choir. Our conductor was the Keble organ scholar at that time,
Charles Hazlewood, who has since gone on to do a thing or two . . . but I still say his greatest act of musical daring was attempting to put on the Te Deum with only thirty or so singers (Hector wrote it for, what, 400?). The full rehearsal that afternoon went magnificently. Inspired, I went home to Coverdale College* to hurriedly finish my charcoal gray wool dress with the white lace collar to sing in-- I'd started it the previous summer at home in the States but it still wasn't hemmed and the buttons weren't sewn on. I made it back to Keble in good time to sing, but as I mention in the Paris portion of my diary, I did not do well at all. I'd been getting by all term with following our lead 2nd Soprano and hadn't actually memorized the notes. But on the night, my friend wasn't in good voice and our tenors (all six of them) wimped on the "Tibi Omnis Angeli." I could feel the choir's confidence plummet all around me, so I decided to give my section a strong lead. And I led them straight into destruction, wrong notes everywhere, especially in the "Tu Christe Rex Gloriae." Mea culpa! mea culpa! mea maxima culpa! As things got more and more ragged, Charles slowed down the tempo, thinking it'd give us the chance to find our places and catch up. More like run us all out of breath, especially on the "Judex Crederis." Total disintegration! Mortification on wheels! Perverse thing was, the Coverdale* principal, whose son was playing in the orchestra, said that was the best the Keble orchestra and chorus had sounded in years. Yes, I know. Their previous performances (under previous student conductors) don't bear thinking of.

I may have gotten some sleep that night; I don't remember. I know I got only one and a half hour's worth the Sunday night, since I was desperately trying to finish the last two Michaelmas term essays for my final Medieval Architecture History tutorial on Monday. Miraculously, I managed to get them both done in time. I use that adverb on purpose, because I hadn't even started the research on the second one; in fact, I fell asleep over my books and dreamed of a good line to take on it, and woke up ninety minutes later and wrote it down.

So I survived my double tutorial Monday the 5th, and biked back to Coverdale* not to relax, not to pack for my Europe trip, not even to clear out my room to make it ready for the American conference guests who'd be coming in. No, I had to help set up scenery and get ready for my bit part in the college Christmas pantomime, a brilliant (in my opinion!) topical parody on Aladdin penned by one of the Coverdale* ordinands. I and my two female American fellow-lodgers had a singing turn as Three Little Maids, as in The Mikado.

After that, there were not one, but two dances, and after that . . .

Well, I'll let the diary tell the story.

But I think this is long enough for one post. I'll get us on the road in a post hereafter.


whiskers said...

OH! You started and now I'm behind!

Thank you, (this is so exciting), I feel like I'm rushing around with you getting ready to travel.


St. Blogwen said...

You're behind? Nonsense, no more than I missed my train that first day. Jump on board!