I produced The Screen and set it up in a corner, alongside the harpsichord’s soundboard, explaining that it would provide instrumental accompaniment, as long as someone provided chords and rhythm (though the more human input it received from the accompaniment, the more it could do in return).
Skeptical, Jenny played a continuo-like set of arpeggios, whereupon The Screen played alongside with flute and string quartet
“So why do you need me?” she asked.
“Because somebody has to provide chords and rhythm – preferably as continuo in this instance – or The Screen does nothing,” I replied,
“To say nothing of the fact that someone has to direct us while playing continuo,” Ian added.
Jenny smiled and spent ten minutes warming up – and then was ready to begin rehearsing.
* * *
“Stan, you’ve a waterfall of notes and phrases cascading out of your mouth,” Jenny sighed irately,
:”You say that as though it’s a bad thing,” Stan replied.
“In this case, it is a bad thing,” Jenny said. “This is Mattioli, not Massenet – each note needs to be – well, not necessarily staccato, but distinct. Your kind of flow in the music is a good two hundred years away.”
“This is an echo – I’m taking my artistic license with the phrase,” said Stan, doubling down.
The Screen then replied with a Bronx cheer; everybody except Stan laughed.
“Shut it!” he groused at it,
“Screen’s right,” Jenny said. “You can change dynamics – the volume and all – maybe even phrasing slightly – but never the clarity, not when you’re singing echo.”
I had to admit, I was impressed: Dynamics, phrasing – even the difference between Mattioli and Massenet (which I knew, but doubted either Ian ot Stan did). I knew Jenny was an expert, nearly to the point of being an anorak, when it came to maths and science, but this side of her knowledge was utterly unexpected.
She’d certainly used it on all of us, even Ian – it was simply Stan’s turn “in the dock” just now. But, hard as it was on our self-esteem (and much as she might have relished it just a bit), our performance was improving by leaps and bounds, almost ready for presentation.
But, it wasn’t just Jenny’s direction, or even The Screen, Stan, Ian and I also did some a capella vocals in perfect harmony. There was some magic in this place itself that was affecting us, optimizing Jenny’s direction as well as making our voices come together – with a bit of whimsy, but meaning no irreverence or disrespect, we’d dubbed it “Cathedral of Our Lady of the Bombed Out Cinema.”
But, was it a magic we could take with us?
© 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One) and Walking Backward for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall are each now available from Amazon Books. The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) is expected to be available shortly. The next novel of the series, By Good Angels Tenanted, will be available later in 2018