Two Tragedies

I’ve lost my beautiful singing voice! All of a sudden even I don’t think I sing wonderfully anymore! The kids have never thought so, philistines, and will ask me after the opening bar “Please don’t sing, Dad”. In fact I use it as a weapon: “Want me to sing to you?” gets them to behave pronto.
Even the neighbourhood kids give a resounding NO THANKS PETE! when I suggest I sing to them in Italian instead of putting Nicky Minaj on the car stereo. Pity. I do a marvelous rendition of the ringpiece cantata (Ahs solo mio).

Aitch was the only person who ever said “I love it when you sing” but then she also called me “My handsome oke”. She would always ask me to sing “the evening song” when we were driving after dark: Kris Kristofferson’s “Best of all possible worlds”. Of course that’s mainly gruffly mumbled, so that helped.

Of course I used to sing beautifully. The teacher who trained the boys choir in Harrismith Laerskool said so.
I was a soprano and we looked down on the altos who, though necessary as backup, weren’t in the same league as us squeakers. One directly behind me used to bellow in my ear: “Dek jou hol met bowse off hollie!
One day the discerning teacher Juffrou Cronje, chose me to sing a solo in the next konsert.

Then tragedy struck! My balls dropped. They handled it very diplomatically. By ignoring it and cancelling practice. The konsert didn’t materialise (co-incidence? Surely they didn’t cancel a concert just because one boy suffered testicular descent?) and by the time the next one came around I hadn’t been banished – just consigned to the back and asked to turn it down.
In case there are people who think Harrismith se Laerskool se Seunskoor was a Mickey Mouse outfit, lemme tellya:
WE TOURED ZULULAND. The Vienna Boys Sausages were probably nervous.
We got onto a bus and drove for hours and hours and days and reached Empangeni where the school hall was stampvol of people who, starved of culture in deepest Zoolooland, listened in raptures as we warbled Whistle While You Work, High on your Heels is a Lonely Goat Turd, PaRumPaPumPum, Edelweiss, and some volksliedjies which always raised a little ripple of applause as the gehoor thought “Dankie tog, we know vis one”.
If memory serves (and it does, it does, seldom am I the villain or scapegoat in my recollections) there was a flood and the road to RietShits Bye was cut off, sparing them the price of a ticket (though those were probably gratis?).
Can’t remember driving back, but we must have.


Years later choir singing reared its head again:

In high school we had a mate who was in the Free State koor. He was famous in Harrismith for that. His name was Spreeu, we called him Sparrow. Everyone knew Sparrow was one of “Die Kanaries – Vrystaatse Jeugkoor”. Fame! Bright lights!

One day a buzz went round school that Septimus Smuts (he was the seventh child, we were told), FS Inspector of Music was there to do auditions for new members for this famous – well, OK, plaaslik beroemd – koor. We were there! Me and Gabba Coetzee. Neither known for having the faintest interest in warbling before (my membership of the laerskool koor a distant memory). Nor any other form of culture come to think of it, other than rugby. Gabba was a famous – beroemde – rugby player, having been chosen for Oos Vrystaat Craven Week in Std 8, 9, 9 & 10. Strong as an ox.

People were amazed: “What are YOU ous doing here?” they asked as we waited ages in the queue (not that the queue was that long, but Septimus was slow and took breaks). We just smiled. We’d already missed maths, biology and PT.

Septimus was a little dapper rockspider full of confidence. Gay as a jaybird. He gave Gabba exactly three seconds and sent him packing. Gave me a minute or so and said “Nice enough, but no range”. So back to class we went, crestfallen look on our dials, mournfully telling our mates and the teacher that we COULD NOT understand how we’d been rejected and there must have been some mistake. The teacher raised his eyebrows but we stuck to our story: It had been a longtime deep desire of ours.

It became mine & Gabba’s standing joke over the years and I was looking forward to seeing him at our 40th reunion but sadly he stayed away, despite a few of us trying to phone him and get him to the farm in Swinburne where we had gathered (he farms just a few km’s from there).

Rugby HY 1972 Gabba01 Gabba, disappointed songbird

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