The reason I don’t sing anymore is that I can’t sing for toffee. Even in the bath, I resist for fear of annoying the rest of the household. Occasionally in the car – alone – I might burst into song, but can’t reach the high notes no matter how hard I bellow.
Music at school was fun and we had one hour a week with Geoff Floater, a gifted musician, piano and organ player and choir leader. Geoff is in his eighties and still around today.
We all had to sing together in class and hold the notes and Geoff would root out the ‘Boots Brigade,’ those who couldn’t sing at all, and they would be given an instrument to play, the triangle or tambourine etc. When I was about 15 or 16 years of age, Geoff decided to form a choir, the Cottingham Singers. I am guessing that there were around forty in this mixed voice choir ranging from my age right through to retired people in their seventies.
There were sopranos and altos, baritones and tenors. I was firmly a baritone but could occasionally strain myself and by crossing my legs, could reach a tenor’s range on a good day and with a back wind. Their first concert, although they were practising for around a year or eighteen months before that was in 1973/74.
We sang in practise once a week at Cottingham County Secondary School (as it was then - sometimes called Harland Rise although bizarrely, it was located on Harland WAY), and usually ended up afterwards in the Blue Bell pub in Cottingham on the West Green when I was old enough.
Our concerts were few but hugely enjoyable. The annual concerts started in 1974. We sang at the Guildhall in Hull, in the hall at the school and visited old people’s homes at Christmas for carols, some of our best performances. We even shared the stage with a Welsh male voice choir and this is where my memory lets me down, I can’t remember their name, but that was astonishing.
Geoff eventually gave that up and I started working shifts at aged 19, I had to give up because I couldn’t devote my time to it. I joined instead for a short time the Hull City Police Male Voice Choir which no longer exists. We sang at the Methodist Hall in Hull, a huge auditorium and at the Hull City Hall in concert with famous baritone Ian Wallace who died in 2009 aged 90.
I couldn’t give dedicated time to choirs with life starting to move into the adult world of work and more important commitments and I never sang in a choir again. It’s NOT like riding a bike either, you can forget and lose the techniques and tricks of the trade and without practise, I join the world of the Boots Brigade.
Cottingham Singers exist today – a registered charity, and their website is here.
Fun times and rewarding too.
A vicar goes to the zoo and accidentally falls into the lion’s enclosure. Seeing a very hungry looking lion approaching, the vicar gets to his knees in supplication, puts his hands together and starts praying. Incredibly the lion does the same thing.
“A miracle!” shouts the vicar.
“Don’t interrupt, “said the lion, “I’m saying grace.”