BECAUSE both my parents were deaf, as a young child music was a stranger to me.
The only songs I knew were Grannie Annie’s ...
Who’s this coming down the street
Mrs Simpson ain’t she sweet.
She’s been married seven times before
Now she’s knocking on Edward’s door.
and Aunt Ethel’s ‘Daisy Daisy give your answer do’. I couldn’t even whistle.
At school of course we had hymns in assembly but we didn’t have music lesson till we were in the upper half of Longroyd Junior School.
I wasn’t very fond of these lessons. I always ended up with a triangle although the school had loads of different percussion instruments.
The triangles were not the great big one I’d seen in the ‘Hopalong Cassidy’ film which Gabby Hayes used to summon the cowboys to the chuck waggon.
The castanets we had were tied to a stick unlike the pair macho Spanish dancers had in each hand and the class were only given one each. It was like rattling Grannie’s false teeth on a stick. I was always on a triangle which involved a lot of counting bars. I longed to be on the drum or tambourine or even the castanet but it was not to be.
Despite all this I do love music and when I was asked to go with my son Richard to buy his mother a recording for Christmas I readily agreed.
We went to Woods Music shop and I asked Dick what the recording was called. He said: “ Mum says it’s called Carmen Biryani”.
I’d heard of Carmen by Bizet and I was very familiar with Carmen Jones, a rewritten film version, which I’d seen many times having once been a film projectionist. I also knew Carmen Miranda but I’d never heard of Carmen Biryani. Neither had Woods. I glanced at the display and spotted a recording Carmina Burana.
“She’s got to mean that,” I said to Dick and it turned out to be right.
Carmina Burana has a beginning and end piece called O Fortuna, which was made famous because it was used in the Old Spice aftershave advert.
When I heard Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus were doing a performance of Carmen Biryani, sorry, Carmina Burana at the town hall, I thought that’s a must for me and I wasn’t disappointed: it was a terrific show. It made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
I particularly watched the triangle player. Unlike me at school he had a go on other instruments including the big drum. The soloists were a joy to listen to. I really enjoyed the very expressive counter tenor singing Cignus ustus cantat translated it means ‘the roast swan’. It’s about a complaining blackened spit-roasted swan.
The whole thing is based on medieval poems in a mixture of Dog Latin, German and French. This mixed language is now called Macaronic. I first heard of it in the film of Umberto Eco’s book The Name of the Rose. Where William of Baskerville’s apprentice Adso Melk asks what language the hunchback Salvatore is speaking, he answers: “All languages and none”.
Macaronic can be quite amusing as when a judge trying to appear a linguist speaking to a convicted French murderer says:
“Vous avez tuer three men mort.”