From Music to ships and boats.

I was privileged to belong to the student choir for the whole time that I taught at Christ Church College, it had a very high standard because there was an excellent Music dept. Grenville Hancox came two years after I started and the standard became even higher.


Centre front row …Grenville Hancox


Choir and orchestra rehearsing in the refectory at Christchurch.

I think I have mentioned elsewhere how wide our repertoire was. There was one strange incidence. We were invited to go to Boulogne Cathedral to sing one of the oratorios, I can’t remember which one. We gathered at the college and buses took us to Dover. We were due to sing at 6pm. The ferry that we were catching gave us plenty of time, everyone was in good spirits, as usual I was using the opportunity to draw.

We were about half way across and I was concentrating on some ropes that I was drawing, I chanced to glance up and found that we were pointing towards the White Cliffs. Odd!. We had turned around and were heading back. A crewman had fallen in to the open hold and broken his back. When we docked the ambulance was waiting.


The ambulance waiting at Dover.


sketbkchoir boul

Then the ship turned round and headed back to Calais…now we were seriously late, there was no way in which we were going to be ready for 6.00. In the end we sang at about 8pm and the cathedral was almost empty.



Nov11insidecathIn the very dark and practically empty Boulogne Cathedral, most of the congregation were our supporters.

The building was in the middle of being renovated and there were great sheets of plastic hanging from the dome and the walls the whole was bathed in half light it was the oddest feeling singing in this strange space.

The French organisers had provided lots of food for us, it was nearly ten o’clock by the time we were eating it.


We caught a ferry back at about midnight everyone was pretty tired, it was the oddest slightly surreal experience.




When I look back at our performances there are some that I remember being particularly exciting Carmina Burana. the Bernstein Chichester Psalms,which we performed in St Bartholomew’s in Herne Bay, with a wonderful boy soprano, Elijah. For heart rending beauty Mozart’s requiem, and I have a soft spot for Faure’s requiem.

Christ Church College music dept was given a substantial amount of money by Roger de Haan, son of the founder of the Saga travel company. Saga specialises in travellers over fifty. I have been on lots of their holidays. This money was to fund research into the benefits of music in the health and well being of older people.There is a bit of irony here because the company started around about the time I started lecturing in Canterbury. They used to take over the student hostels in the summer and use them for holidays for older people. I’m afraid we were a bit cruel in mocking our new guests. Now I more than qualify I feel quite ashamed of our insensitivity. Four years ago I joined one of the Singing for Health Choirs that have been set up all over the country. I only gave it up when I could no longer use the bus that took me to Tankerton

Recently I have sung with the jazz choir led by Kai Hoffman. What has been particularly exciting about the experience is that I find I can scat and improvise with confidence, and I enjoy the creative freedom. My years of chords backing our band have paid off because I hear them as I sing a melody above. Another plus is that I already know the jazz standards fro years of playing them.


Next time. Then there were boats. When I met Ken he had already had a heart attack…it was like a warning of mortality. He loved boats of all kinds and I wanted to make sure his dreams of boating were realised. All the time that I was with him our holidays were always spent with boats, it wouldn’t be my first choice but I wanted him to be happy. (to be continued)

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