choir and accompaniment

as the concert hall mutters to itself
in the act of settling
to the drone of strings
tightening and loosening for pitch and tone
from the front row
it is the evidence of character that suggests itself
as much as the promise of music
and the rise and fall of harmony

the shining baldness of a conductor
with a virtuoso earring
catching the spotlight in flashes keeping time
to the sway of the tails of his suit coat
and the violence of a baton
wielding emphasis to his silent shouts
at players and choristers
leading and prompting each movement
to carol a birth that happened
a long time ago
in a place some way from here

young men and boys sing
while making entrance from the left
jostling vigorously to achieve
the exact place of rehearsal
from which they may present perfectly the parts
practiced with relentless attention
before the tolerant the adoring and the stoic
for weeks beforehand

the bass men bow to each other
with every turn of the page
hearing all but standing a little apart
from the finesse of violin and cello
more comfortable in the proximity
of tympani and a bassoon
that puffs the cheeks and raises
the red eyebrows of its man
higher and higher
making large eyes that glance pointedly
sideways at sheet music tantalisingly close
to the edge of the range of vision

two violins are giggling between parts
something must have been said
but a look from the orchestra captain
is quite enough to quell
as the cellos saw away with gusto
and self obsession while the kettle drums
acting as an entire percussion section
are managing sleigh bells and triangle
and proving themselves to be team players

the only brass to be heard
drowning out a rousing chorus
is the farting trombone
wielded with vigour by a red face
and uncomfortable belly that remind me instantly
of a cold glass of beer in the local pub

the female lead soloist protrudes her lips
in an ‘O’ to be proud of
her lipstick adorns and disappears
inside the mouth without change of colour
but the baritone wears dark and sinister shadows
in his ill fitting suit with the satin stripe
and sleeves that require a bent elbow
to allow the hands to move unhindered

the choir of course is young cherubim
with a beauty in the voices unbroken
and raised high in songs of praise
as deeper mature voices of support
thrum from the old-boys reassembled
for one more occasion and melody

if you close your eyes
in the front row to hear it
the rise and fall of music and harmony
is a transport to a heaven of angels
but if you prefer to watch
the melding of character and idiosyncrasy
is a richness in itself

© Frank Prem, 2000

The Grenfell Henry Lawson Festival of the Arts Verse Competition winner and awarded the statuette for best verse over all Class winners – June 2001.

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