Hippy, rock star or choirboy; A choice of vocation.
I always had an interest in music. From a very early age, my father tried to ram Bach, Beethoven and Mozart down my throat. But it was no use as I was taken in and influenced by the Rolling Stones. I never did anything musical when I was at school because I always had a Rolling Stones song ringing in my head and the music teacher had a volatile temperament and he intimidated me.
It was quite recent that I found out that Kieth Richard was a choirboy before he became a Rolling Stone. Had I known about that when I was at school I would have joined the school choir in spite of the teacher's violent temperament. I would have been determined to sing in the choir and thereby learn about the structure of music. Kieth Richard was singing in the choir at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953, but he doesn't talk about this. Perhaps he doesn't see it as a milestone in his musical career. But I certainly do. Among other things the choir sang Handel's Zadog the Priest, so you could say that if it were not for George Handel there would have been no Rolling Stones, or they would have fizzled out very quickly like most pop groups do. Not forgetting Brian Jones, the founder of the group, was also among other things a chorister when he was at school.
As a child I was packed off to Miss Crotchet's for recorder lessons once a week and I hated it. It was not until I was 17 years old that I decided to do something serious in music. I had left school for over a year, worked on the shop floor in a garage on the railways and had hated it, so I decided that I needed to do something creative. I went to Cyril's secondhand shop in Reading and bought an old guitar and a copy of Bert Weedon's Play in a day book.
I knew a few guitarists who used to strum away and sing the blues and I thought they were really cool so I wanted to be part of their scene. Folk songs, ballads, protest songs and even Bob Dylan, I tried all that but I wasn't really getting anywhere with it, so I took up classical guitar. Some of the best rock musicians were classically trained.
After a time I gave up on music altogether because I became more interested in sport, but music never left me completely I just had no intention of performing music. In 2001 I decided I wanted to do some performing on stage. I went to some rehearsals at Questors Choir and I was very impressed by the atmosphere. It was almost like an adrenaline rush and I did my first performance with the choir at Christmas 2001. The director wanted a soloist from each section so I volunteered just to see if I would sink or swim, I did my solo and survived my first performance. Our next performance was Bernstein's Chichester Psalms which is all in Hebrew, and anyone will tell you it is very challenging. and you could say that I jumped in at the deep end with choral singing, but I am still at it and intend to continue.
My only regret is that I did not join a choir earlier in life. I could have learned so much more music so much more quickly than I did. You can learn music by locking yourself in solitary confinement, practicing scales and arpeggios for hours on end but by doing that you are not really letting your feelings out. Music comes from people's feelings that is why some people don't want to bother with hours of practice perfecting their Bach partitas, instead they just get up on stage and do their own thing, get applauded, glamoured and soon forgotten. I often wonder if Kieth Richard ever gets bored playing the same old songs over and over again and does he ever wish he was still a choirboy? After playing "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" in Cuba I would imagine he probably does. Is this what the Cubans have been missing all these years?
We at Questor's Choir never have a dull moment in our rehearsals or our performances so if you have any interest in music of any kind, my best advice is join a choir.
Patrick Smart - Bass - Published March 2017