It’s Sunday night and every sane person’s on the settee with the TV…
Not so the intrepid members of A.O.S. for,
Like Prospero, Brian waves his wand and draws them:
Up from the capital,
Down from the sticks and even from across The Border.
Just as the magic baton rises, a cello scuttles in,
Weaves her way dangerously between stands
But Brian is used to this and carries on.
As the Sotto voce soap opera continues on the back desk
We look across ’no-man’s land’ at the violins.
Some plague has struck again and there are only three!
Taking pity on them, the conductor picks on the bottom instead:
“Bar 21, cellos. My age”
It’s an exposed passage in treble clef, legato, pianissimo
With a few strategic double-stops. We break into a sweat.
The violins smirk.
As the tune rises, the front desk suffers a sense of vertigo
The air is fresh, clear and very quiet as they find themselves alone on the summit.
All their friends have dropped away…
The sad loner of a viola escapes again as something strange is happening in the woodwind.
Chris, all innocent, peers over his reading glasses and,
Like children passing wind in assembly, looks pass up and down the line.
No one’s prepared to take the blame.
But Brian has a nose for such misdemeanours,
“It was the bassoons! Off the beat. COUNT!
Back to ‘A’ for Arsenal.”
Someone is talking again at the back of the cellos
And we receive a dangerous look.
Every week we take the music home to practise
But every week it’s returned pristine
Except, that is for the front desk,
The head girl and her deputy,
Surely valued prefects when they were in school
Who valiantly pass back bowings, hints and tips
Never losing hope.
It’s nearing break time and the brass slope off early
We give them a withering look,
They should be on half pay!
Now it’s D Day. The mercenaries have arrived:
Tough, crew-cut heavies, conspicuous by being
thirty years younger than everybody else.
After a truly individual ‘A’ from Malcolm
But the conductor’s mount is no thoroughbred:
Headstrong, nervy and skittish, it is liable to bolt,
Particularly nearing the finish line.
He holds the reins with confidence, firm but fare and VERY flexible.
There is a time delay at the venue
It’s as if the entire brass section has slipped through a worm hole into another dimension.
There are split loyalties in the strings…
Shall we follow our leader or go and play with the big guns?
Soon there is no choice but to fake it,
But this is what we cellos do the best!
Frowning with concentration, our bows dancing an inch above the string
We even do vibrato!
Now we are nearing the end of the symphony
Like Bunyon’s Pilgrim, we have avoided most of the pit-falls due to our Creator’s steady hand.
But there’s a dangerous whiff of freedom in the air.
A cello turns over the last page: chords in 6ths for 40 bars.
We do some flashy re-take down bows (that’ll get the audience on its feet)
The violins are scuttling up and down the fingerboard
The brass is an advancing Roman Legion
As the percussionist rises from his over-paid slumber and bangs something, loudly.
I am glad of the medics amongst us as the woodwind’s faces grow scarlet.
Kindly the Committee has paid for someone to be the lone viola’s friend and
We are all in it together, finishing on a flourish of five fortissimo chords.
The Maestro bows deep.
Only the subtle application of the linen to his face betraying just how close to disaster was this race.
Jane Blank, 2012