Countdown To Christmas – Episode 05

THE news of the show was spreading rapidly through every organisation that used the Millennium Hall. In general it was being very well received. That included the church choir which met there for rehearsal on Friday evenings.“I was at the meeting where the idea was proposed, you know,” Mavis Prior was saying with some pride, as if the idea had been hers. “But I didn’t put myself forward for the committee. One doesn’t want to overstretch oneself, especially when one will, no doubt, be called upon to perform a solo.” Kate and Sally were sitting together as usual with the altos there were only five of them altogether listening as Mavis held forth. Though they didn’t say a word, their expressions could be easily read as, “There she goes again!”Kate and Sally were torn. They were both long-time members of the church choir, but the tap-dance class would be putting together a dance routine for the show as well. Although Kate dreaded the thought of dancing on a stage in front of a real live audience, if she and Sally dropped out it would leave only six of a class to perform. As Sally pointed out, that would sound more like a few loose nails rattling around a tin bucket than a tap routine!“Poor old Dolores would be devastated if the class wasn’t included in the show,” she had coaxed Kate. “It being her last crack at showbiz and all,” she had finished.Kate had raised one dubious eyebrow.“Showbiz?”“Well,” Sally had said defensively, “it is a show, isn’t it?”Now, listening to Mavis acting the diva, Kate was undecided. Watching Mavis with her delusions of grandeur would be such fun . . .“I intend to hold auditions for the solo parts,” the choirmaster, Brian McAulay, was saying from his seat behind the piano as they turned their attention back to the room.Well, that would set the cat among the pigeons! They were still exchanging looks of glee as Mavis stood up.“Really, Brian? Auditions? I think we all know that the solos are usually mine. I do have a strong voice, as you know.”The other women in the choir did their best to keep straight faces as Brian shrank a little. No wonder he had chosen to sit behind the piano. Give him his due, mild-mannered though he might be, he didn’t back down. Instead, he sat forward, pushing his glasses up his nose a little.“Thank you for volunteering your services, Mavis. You know I am grateful for your continued support. But it’s hardly fair of us to prevail on you yet again, when we have so many new younger members who should take their turn and share the burden. Hmm?”“Oh, well done!” Kate muttered.“Nicely parried,” Sally agreed beside her.Heads collectively bobbed back towards Mavis to see how she would react. Her mouth opened and closed, but with nothing more than a “Well, then,” she sank into her seat.The atmosphere changed in the small room with its pale grey walls and venetian blinds closed against the darkening evening. It was almost as if it had issued a faint sigh of relief. Brian wiped his forehead with a chequered handkerchief, and let his fingers wander playfully over the piano keys.“I think the initial suggestion was for show tunes, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t do them, but I did wonder about something like this.” As they listened they began to recognise “The Little Drummer Boy”. “It would be lovely as an ensemble piece, with just a few lines picked out as solos.”Heads nodded around the room and some hummed along for a few bars.Then one of those newer, younger members he had mentioned spoke up.“Some of us fancied doing a kind of funky version of a standard like ‘Jingle Bells’, too, if you could help us with an arrangement.” His eyes lit up.“Great idea!” He vamped the tune on the piano. As the younger girls nodded eagerly, Mavis shuddered.“If you ask me, you can’t beat something traditional at Christmas time,” she said, evidently having found her voice again.Brian lifted his hands from the keys.“I think there’s a place for both traditional and modern in an entertainment,” he said. “Shall we turn our attention to Sunday’s hymns? Kate, if you wouldn’t mind handing out the music sheets . . .” The members of the choir, 17 in all, arranged themselves in order of sopranos, altos, tenors and basses. Brian nodded at Mavis to begin, and as her beautiful soprano voice rose to the roof a calm seemed to settle upon the cosy little room.The auditions would take place next week, and there was little doubt that Mavis would win her solo spot on sheer merit. But for now the magnificent music absorbed them completely. Thoughts of the show could wait.


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