Once in a blue moon

theaccordeonplayerWhen it comes to music-making, I am the complete amateur – lots of enthusiasm and enough talent to fill an egg cup. There is virtually nothing in my musical background to lead anyone to expect that in 2018, I would be performing on one of the world’s greatest stages; consider the evidence:

  • Aged just ten, I began piano lessons; aged just eleven, my parents realised they were onto a loser, a loser who hated practising and who resented the obligation to do so. Lessons stopped.
  • Aged nineteen, I encountered Tom at university, a native of Perth and a dab hand on the bagpipes. I was hooked. For many hours I practised on the chanter, the sort of business end of the pipes until one dread winter’s day, alone in my overheated and under ventilated bedsit, I borrowed Tom’s set of pipes, puffed away and promptly keeled over. I was discovered lying flat out on the floor beneath a set of dead bagpipes. That terminated the latest enthusiasm.
  • Shortly into my teaching career, I learned to play the guitar. To the innocent listener, results sounded promising, but the experienced ear soon realised that I was little beyond playing what guitarists refer to as ‘the three chord trick’; i.e. learn to play three chords and suddenly most tunes can be accompanied. ‘Virtuoso’ was not the first word that comes to mind.
  • Fifteen years ago, a colleague found an old accordion in her father’s loft. I was off again. With a total lack of subtlety, I had found a new passion. The family suffered, the neighbours suffered and, in desperation, I was sent out into the garden to practice.

Yet despite this lack of talent, the big stage awaited.
I can sing – not well, not at performance level, but ever since the primary school choir, into Gilbert and Sullivan operas at grammar school, the college choir, I have enjoyed singing. And so it came to pass, on 5 May 2018, our choir, the Witney Inter-Church Singers, was invited to join the massed ranks for Prom Praise in the Royal Albert Hall. With 500 singers my mistakes were easily drowned, and a full orchestra led a hall packed to the rafters with 6000 people who came together to celebrate their faith. The word ‘uplifting’ hardly does it justice – a huge sound, a magnificent auditorium and an upwelling of belief. Perhaps ‘mind-blowing’ is better.

Travelling back on the coach late into the evening, another blue moon moment arrived. An older lady who I didn’t know from Adam, came and sat beside me. She was formidably knowledgeable about world conflict zones and political interventions therein. To cut a long story short, the ride ended with an invitation to tea at the House of Lords, but perhaps that is a tale for another day.

Bob Forster

August – September 2018