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Make a joyful noise ...


My husband is a man of many talents, not just picking locks (if you don’t know that story you haven’t read my previous blogs!) One of his joys is music … singing, playing instruments, listening to others. And he’s pretty good at all of these. I also love music, but that’s where the similarity ends! My singing is enthusiastic but not terribly tuneful. I always expect to turn around and find a pack of howling dogs following me when I start. I think it must be a family trait. My brother married a lovely girl from a large family. They used to enjoy regular family parties (well it was the 70’s after all) and for entertainment they would play ‘spin the bottle’ and whoever it pointed at would sing their signature tune. Everyone had their favourite song that they sang at parties. These were more simple days. And of course there were no smart phones or Instagram or tiktok, so there is no documentary evidence that this actually happened, but take my word, it did. Anyway, after the first few times of listening to the ‘interesting’ offerings of my brother they presented him a miniature statue of a man in a kilt, it might even have been a bagpiper (it was a lot of years ago so my memory is a little foggy), it was called ‘the wee kilty man’. The point of the wee kilty man was that if the spinning bottle pointed to my brother he could produce the wee kilty man and his turn would pass without having to sing. This was a blessing to my brother who was spared the embarrassment of public singing, but was also a blessing to the other party goers who would be spared their ears bleeding from the sound!

On Sunday morning, unknown to me (or anyone else for that matter), I believe the vicar was indulging in her own secret version of spin the bottle. There was no musician available to play the piano at the morning service, so the ‘magic piano’ with pre-recorded tunes was to be used. This in itself was not an issue, however, when she looked around there were also none of the usual suspects available who had been inducted into the secret squirrel society of those who knew which buttons to press to make it play. And so the spinning bottle pointed in my direction, and in the absence of a wee kilty man that I could brandish to move this poisoned chalice from my lips I found myself being propelled towards the choir stalls and the scary piano of many buttons. There were no discernible instructions and only 5 minutes before the start of the service to indulge in the magic piano crash course. I have never been a great believer in reading instruction manuals, which was handy as there wasn’t one. Trial and error gave me some idea of what button did what and before long, like Morecombe and Wise, I could claim to be pressing all the right buttons, but not necessarily in the right order! My musical husband, despite refusing to be responsible for the button pressing himself, did shout words of encouragement from the sidelines, and since we were in Church I refrained from voicing the thoughts running through my head in response. Choir members also encouraged me with stage whispers of ‘turn the volume down’ and ‘turn the volume up’ - it didn’t help that we were on the 3rd hymn of the service before I actually located the volume button in the plethora of random buttons.

To make a bizarre situation even more surreal, at one point I was instructed to ‘pretend to play’ the piano as the livestream camera was moving around in my direction, so there I was, like a rabbit caught in headlights and trying to channel my inner Richard Clayderman, hoping that my swaying arms and staring face didn’t unduly alarm the viewing public. Eventually having got to the end of the service with only a few missteps I was so relieved to play the final hymn that I played it twice for good measure. Only then did I fall upon the list of numbered recordings that would have been useful to have found 40 minutes earlier. But in the end I think we all survived intact, and a very kind parishioner came and thanked me and told me I had played beautifully. I am not sure whether my manic swaying had convinced her that I was actually playing or whether she thought it wiser to humour me, but I was grateful for her kind words.
So now I am on the lookout for a wee kilty man of my own to ward off the vicar the next time she points her spinning bottle in my direction. But to be honest it is a real honour to belong to a Church family who encourages people to be as involved as they can be, who appreciates their efforts and who are willing to embrace and look beyond those Morecombe and Wise moments.




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