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Music by the Masses

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One of my uncle’s indicators as to whether a person is living a rewarding life, is whether or not they have friends and family around them with whom they can sing when they get together. It’s a bloody good indicator. And it seems that it’s one that fewer and fewer of us can say that we have nailed.

At my wedding my Breton family sang. It was how things were done then (20 years, not so very long ago really). It was the sign that they were having a good time and that they approved of the bride and groom and of proceedings generally. If they hadn’t sung, oh boy would that have been bad sign.

The British guests, both the English and Welsh (the latter perhaps more surprisingly) struggled to come up with a repertoire of songs to fit the occasion and with which to “reply” to their new Breton friends. (There were Scots too, but not enough to form a choir). The Welsh found the answer in rugby anthems, the English in the Beatles!

(I’m not sure if anyone has really explored what an incredible boon the Beatles have been to English folks attempting to join in the joy of singing cultures. They have come to rescue where the English (British?) have been guests in bars and homes the world over, at weddings, celebrations and on one memorable occasion that I was part of, at an impromptu Sherpa party in the Himalayan foothills. Flippin’ good thing the Beatles. Terrifyingly I think the equivalent role is now fulfilled for the Welsh by Max Boyce, (although you have to credit Tom Jones for the glory of Delilah). I still have my copy of “We All Had Doctors Papers”. And I’m not even Welsh.

But it’s all still out there, not in here. We will go and see music played for us in all sorts of places and ways. That’s good, great even, but we don’t bring it home, much.

Now it is true to say that ukulele is having a moment, probably unparalleled since Audrey Hepburn strummed Moon River on the fire-escape in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Sales are at an unprecedented high, and the uke is championed by a number of people. Acoustic guitars never went away (even if sometimes we really, really wished they would), but we need more. More instruments, more singing, more acceptance that we may be a bit pants but we’re having a good time. More of a common repertoire of songs (I doubt the latest generation to reach adulthood could even draw upon the Beatles with much success). Who cares if you’re not Yo-Yo Ma, Toumani Diabate, Django Reinhardt, Anouar Bremen, a Beatle or even Max Boyce. Who cares that you’re not getting paid, or that you were made to learn the clarinet in school and hated the blasted thing. Make music. It’s your birth-right. Your heart beats in rhythm, so it’s in there somewhere.

Categories: Playing Around

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marie-anne

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