Monday, 6 April 2009

The introduction on the piano began.

Burns Cottage in Alloway, ScotlandImage via Wikipedia

I don't consider myself to be much of a singer and never sing along with a crowd or congregation in the church as my deep drone would be heard over the rest which would embarrass me and most likely put the rest of the singers off. I have sung on my own however when I have had a couple of drinks to loosen my vocal chords so to speak. I was often asked to sing at the local clubs and pubs I used to frequent and got quite a good response but as the audience was a bit tipsy at the time their opinion didn't count for anything although they seemed to enjoy dancing along to the songs I sang and even requested some of the numbers on the odd occasion. (never requesting me to sit down and shut up thankfully)
The reason I am mentioning my latter acceptance of my renditions is because it is in contrast to an experience I had at school when we were asked by our music teacher to choose a Burns song (Robert Burns the Scottish poet) and if it was sung good enough would be sung in front of all of the school pupils during our mock Burns supper. As each of my class mates took their turn I had decided that I would sing the beautiful love song"Afton Waters" and as the melody ran through my head I pictured ME when my turn came standing and belting out the first words "Flow gently sweet Afton amang thy green braes" and with the way it sounded in my head there was the chance that I would get picked to sing in front of all the teachers and pupils.
After listening to the boys and girls that had gone before me I was even more convinced that with this beautiful song and the way I was singing it in my head I was a certainty to be chosen.
At last my turn came and I proudly and confidently stood up when my teacher called my name and when she asked my choice of song I told her in a less confident whisper that Afton Waters was my choice........Miss. The introduction on the piano began and as she looked over at me which was my cue to start singing, I took a deep breath and opened my mouth but sadly not my vocal chords. Although my mouth was shaping the words and the tune was in my head, the words just seemed to get stuck in my throat so I cleared it and awaited the introduction again
but the same thing happened. SIT DOWN Swarbrick was my next instruction from Miss Milligan and needing no second telling I clumped down on my seat flaberghasted at what had happened but couldn't fail to notice the grin on her face.
My voice was in the process of breaking and she obviously knew through experience that no matter what, it would be a while before I could sing again let alone sing at the supper.
Once I realised what was going on I felt quite proud that I was becoming a man and the embarrassment left me especially when some of the other boys who still had their high pitched voices expressed their feelings of jealousy.
Now every time I hear the song Afton Waters it takes me back to that day, and at one time I even thought of naming my boat after it but on reflection changed my mind as it might have been as unsuccessful as my attempt to sing at the age of fourteen, when I was asked to sing for a supper.
I did however make up for it the year after but not in a singing capacity. My speech"Tae the lassies" written in the English class, was chosen to be read by me at the next Burns supper the school held and this time my voice never let me down even getting a nod of approval from Miss Milligan and a round of applause from the audience.

Sweet Afton

Flow gently, sweet Afton! amang thy green braes,
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

Thou stockdove whose echo resounds thro' the glen,
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
Thou green-crested lapwing thy screaming forbear,
I charge you, disturb not my slumbering Fair.

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills,
Far mark'd with the courses of clear, winding rills;
There daily I wander as noon rises high,
My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye.

How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below,
Where, wild in the woodlands, the primroses blow;
There oft, as mild Ev'ning weeps over the lea,
The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me.

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides;
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,
As, gathering sweet flowerets, she stems thy clear wave.

Flow gently, sweet Afton, amang thy green braes,
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

(Above left is the river Afton at dusk.)
(On the right is Burns cottage the birth place of the bard)

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