Sunday, 25 July 2010

Boots Brigade... join here

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.”

Chat soon



  1. I really wish I could sing xx

  2. Hi Auntiegwen,
    Have you thought of joining a choir, and amateur dramatics? You never know how much it might help...

  3. I used to be in the school choir....until I got thrown out for being naughty!

  4. Val
    I CAN'T believe that; so innocent!

  5. I can sing (I'm told.) I have a peculiar two tone voice. Like Barry White eating a rat. Much like the trousers I used to wear back when I made a brief but lucrative living at it back in the early 70's.

    Mind you, I made about 25% of my income from the coinage people threw at me while I was preforming. Amazing how it mounted up :)

    Odd you should mention singing. Most of the would-be groupies were ladies (and gents!) of 'a certain age'. That is, double mine. I'm in delicate negotiations with the daughter of an "ex-fan", a lady now in her seventies, who wants to sell me a poster from my last pub gig, and one of my T-shirts.

    Wondered where that shirt went. And how. You know your getting on a bit when you have "ex-fans" :)

  6. You may be interested to know that I was told by Geoff Floater in a music lesson to "please stop singing you're spoiling it for everyone else". Though I don't remember getting a tambourine! A couple of years ago I found someone who was willing to start a choir for those who can't sing - a Tuneless Choir. It's proving rather successful as you can see from this video: Mr Floater features... though I had to make do with a "Carry on Teaching" photo!