Virginia Barton

23 June 2017: “The Chickadees”


23 June 2017



The communal Lounge where we live has just acquired a gorgeous Yamaha upright piano. It replaces the jingle jangle old one that has been here since — well, a very long time. On this “old Joanna” of an instrument, an accomplished harpsichordist manfully accompanied our Christmas carols, wincing from time to time; and assorted young relations struck up Happy Birthday at the many happy birthday parties, our own included.

The impressive black and glossy newcomer looks far too grand for such trivia; we expect Schubert and Debussy at the very least. There will be an inaugural Recital on July 6th followed by tea and bix.


One hopes the singing group won’t be intimidated by the new piano. The group, so far nameless, meets every other Tuesday for Rounds, traditional English Folk songs and the occasional Musical and Caribbean number. Its popularity is due, perhaps, to the obvious pleasure the two hard-working Leaders take in our instruction and improvement. Such enthusiasm is catching.

Several of the group still sing with choirs, or have done so in the past. (I have not yet boasted — or have I? — of my singing at the London Festival Hall with a London Schools Choir, in honour of the Coronation. I think in 1952. It was conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, and three of us represented our school. The programme included Holst, Purcell and Sir Hubert Parry, wonderfully stirring stuff.)

As current TV pin-up Gareth Malone will tell you, Community Singing is a very binding experience: disparate circles or cliques raise their voices together without rancour; friendships are formed and spin-offs abound. International bodies might learn a thing or two from this and start their conferences with a few rousing songs to pave the way to better understanding.


I recently discovered that it was at the other concert hall in London, the Royal Albert Hall, that the Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss were given their first performance. Kirsten Flagstad was the singer, conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler. The date was May 22, 1950. Strauss never heard them performed in public, having died in September the previous year.

Such music is rather beyond our group at the moment, but nothing is impossible. So if you happen to be passing one or other Tuesday, listen up!


PS: Any ideas for a name for our singing group? I rather fancy The Chickadees.






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