I have hinted at it before in previous blog posts, but if you hadn't worked out by now, I do a bit of singing on the side. I discovered that I had a voice of sorts when we moved to Cardiff from Beddau (little town in the South Wales valleys for you international readers) when I was nine. To cut a long story short, my grandmother died and my grandfather moved in with us. My father and he worked in the same factory and it was natural for us to move nearer their work I had spent my early years in Beddau and as I had no friends in Cardiff as we were new there, I joined the Cub Scouts and later the Scouts. The scouts were affiliated with a church and bada bing, before I know it I'm in the choir.
I'll just pause briefly here as I have to say I was really lucky in the fact that my folks love music and have great taste in it. In one of the first cars that Dad had, there was a cassette player and Mam and Dad got into making mix tapes to play in their car from their not inconsiderable singles and albums collection. Driving from Beddau to Cardiff on the weekends to see my grandparents my sister and I were treated to Stax, Motown, Ska, Glam Rock, Country and all kinds of other great music the late sixties and seventies could offer. From Carly Simons You're so Vain to the Drifters Saturday Night at the Movies via Mud's Tiger Feet with Blue Mink's Melting Pot and the Edwin Hawkins Singers Oh Happy Day. And all kinds of other stuff. We would sing in the car all the way there and all the way back. It was awesome. I have very fond memories of those car journeys.
We would sing songs too. Not songs from the radio, but songs passed down from generation to generation. Songs with titles like "That's my Brother. Who Sylvest?" and a song I still don't know the title to with a lyric that went : "Young folks, old folks, everybody come. Join the darkie Sunday School and we'll have lots of fun..." I shudder now that I sang the word "darkie" with joyous abandon. I was a child, and it was the late seventies. I had no idea. It's a shame too, aside from that word nestling in the first line, its a funny song about bible stories. I did a bit of research and it seems that there are many verses to do with all sorts. There will be a blog about it at some point I'm sure.
Now, once in the choir, I started to take it a bit more seriously. I was a good treble chorister and was able to get chosen to go to the Royal School of Church Music in Bath a couple of summers in a row for a week of singing with other kids from all over the country. It was ace, like boarding school with cassocks. I was a Dean's Chorister for the Dean of Llandaf Cathedral and enjoyed it immensely. Sadly though, being one of the only kids at my school that sang did not earn me cool points. It earnt me invisible targets all over my body that only the bullies could see. Shame really.
I learnt to keep the singing away from school and eventually, when my voice broke at 15, I kind of resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't do it anymore. After school I got a job behind the bar at the New Theatre in Cardiff and found that it was full to the brim with arty types from the university and the Welsh College of Music and Drama. I made some good friends there that are still good friends to this day. One of them, a guy called James Williams mentioned to me that maybe I should start again with the singing and invited me over to his place to "sing some songs". When we got there he put on the original cast recording of Chess and quite frankly, changed the way I listened to music forever. If you haven't heard it, it's tremendous. Music by Benny and Byorn from Abba and the lyrics by Tim Rice. Murray Head was in it and he was epic. Musical Theatre doesn't get much better than this I thought and dived in headfirst.
There is more to this story, but I have noticed that I'm running a bit long on this one. I'll post more in a while.