Last week was a good singing week – bounded at either end by a good solid Latin Mass (the first of which was a 4-parter by Palestrina, bliss), in the middle I did two pub gigs and a Cole-Porter afternoon, plus a day improvising in London. The improvising is a heady matter – launching oneself with none of the awareness required of church music-making.
What key am I in? What intervals am I using? Is it blues or is it jazz? Are there any words and do they matter? Does it matter? I had the feeling the instrumentalists (many, if not most, of them Conservertoire-trained, with that frowning concentration that suggests they are always analysing, always aware of the formalities underlying what they are up to) disapproved of my abandon and that some of them even thought I was mucking things up. The human voice is the free-est and most emotionally satisfying of all instruments. Which may be why most of them are so scared of using it. B00-boo-boo-boo – wah!, I went – ‘Ha, ha, ha! I went. ‘Me – I- me-I…’ and then I sang the first three notes of ‘Summertime’ (well two, I suppose – strictly – cos the first and third are the same note). Without my even using the word ‘Summertime’, everyone recognised the pattern, and in it I felt we were all sharing something utterly formal and definite. We were together in some pure place, time, mood – everything. Weird. And I wondered whether it was allowed.