Eulogies to Life

Today I heard another eulogy at a memorial service. With time you pick up certain patterns. Firstly there is a broad outline of the life celebrated. Then we hear  the funny stories – the little events that bring smiles of remembrance and love. But there is always mention of the trials and tribulations faced and usually conquered. The whole story of each life then is a mixture, an amalgam and a pastiche that is bitter sweet.

Well this afternoon’s service included the playing of the theme from Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse – a British detective series based around Oxford. And for the first time I noticed the depth of this music. It was a bitter-sweet tune which seemed to encapsulate not just the funny and the sad but the mystery, contradiction and enigma which is  life. I was going to comment of this fact. But left it, for the music had spoken the better for me.

Courage to Sing

Well it’s that time of year again. Time that is for this year’s Gareth Malone documentary on teaching the world to sing. Well, not the world but some of the most deprived areas of Britain and some of the most disinterested individuals in singing. Yet with   his ventures, he has changed lives and brightened communities forever.

He started with a school outside london and got them as far as a global Choir Competition in China. He got singers from a boy’s school that prided itself on its sporting excellence to the Albert Hall and he took a community choir from dysfunctional ‘new town’ to the Barbican.

Yet despite past successes, each series starts with his dispiriting tour of youth clubs, pubs and schools trying to drum up volunteers who want to sing. This not only takes the fortitude of an evangelical Jehovah’s Witness but also the courage of British Tommies going over the top at the Somme. For example, who can forget him singing a Handel solo to the morning school assembly full of cynical and street-wise kids?

But as each programme unfolds, Gareth is not the only one displaying unadulterated courage, so do the would-be singers that he invariably finds in the least likely places. Many do not make it through. But for those who do we see them changing before our eyes. because, maybe for the first time in their lives, they have found something inspiring, something they want to do and something that is their own. Few will become the Alfie’s & Brin’s of tomorrow, but each will have a better tomorrow.

Nevertheless, the current series – taking teenagers through to singing an opera at Glynebourne – calls for courage from some other people. Since many who attend opera at this expensive venue, will have preconceived ideas of youth. They too will need to have the courage to to be challenged and changed as they are invited into the youngsters’ better tomorrow. For as Oliver Wendell Homes said -‘Man’s mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions’ .

The dream at end of the road

260px-Music_album When I was a wee boy, my granddad had one cherished record – it was the songs of Harry Lauder. In fact, when we had our morning break together – which he called ‘elevens’ – this LP would be put on and we would both sing along. One of my favourites was ‘Keep right on to the end of the road’.

Well yesterday I heard it sung for the first time in many a long year. But then I learned something about it for the first time. For, despite its rousing marching rhythm, it was written in bereavement. Because it was penned by Sir Harry Lauder, as he would become, in memory of his son killed in the First World War.

Maybe that was the reason that it became so popular for it had a message to all of us who miss someone special. It’s last lines are:

Keep right on to the end of the road,

Keep right on to the end,

Tho’ the way be long,

let your heart be strong,

Keep right on round the bend.

Tho’ you’re tired and weary

still journey on,

Till you come to your happy abode,

Where all the love you’ve been dreaming of

Will be there at the end of the road.

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