IT always starts with the recorder. Well, almost always, because it didn’t for me.
While everyone else was bashing out tuneless versions of London’s Burning and Frère Jacques, I wasn’t deemed committed enough to the learning process for my parents to part with 50p for said instrument.
There was a piano in the school hall, mostly dominated by two teachers, and there was a xylophone (I was particularly chuffed to learn that the word didn’t begin with a z) and a glockenspiel. I didn’t get to play those either. Well, not more than once.
Assemblies and carol services were dominated by those deemed to have displayed something approaching semi-competence on their instrument or to have good enough voices to have secured a place in the choir.
I was given the job of being a silent singer, which was a heck of a responsibility to be fair, and one I didn’t take with a pinch of salt.
Meanwhile the likes of Rachel Moore were turning up at school with their own instruments. Her, possibly because she was one of only a small number tall enough at the age of ten to play it, with a cello. At the end of every term and at Christmas she would bring the thing in and treat us to some horrific screeching renditions of songs I either hadn’t heard of or, which didn’t sufficiently resemble ones I had, to be recognisable.
It’s easy to have a pop at others though, isn’t it, when you haven’t had a go yourself?
That’s where I gain the right though as I adopted the maxim of “if at first you don’t succeed...” and before long had been summoned by the school director of music (obviously there wasn’t one, it was just whichever of the teachers who could play the piano was taking the lesson at the time) and given the role of triangle player in the carol service band.
Proud? You bet. You can just imagine my mum and dad strutting around telling everyone about my now fully acknowledged musical dexterity. Or diving into shop doorways to avoid friends and other parents.
The triangle is not something you see referenced too often when band members’ contributions are listed on album sleeves, but that’s probably because quite a high level of expertise is needed to master the polygon-shaped metallic sound provider.
I came to that conclusion as the teacher, Miss Richmond, assured me it was no small part I was playing and certainly not one to be scoffed at by those lording it with what they perceived to be superior instruments.
I was given my instructions. Basically, just stand there and dong the thing with the, er, donging thing every couple of lines.
“Away in a manger (tempted to ting, but no, hold your horses), no crib for a bed...(ting), the little lord Jesus (no...) laid down his sweet head (repeat the ting)”.
Unfortunately it didn’t go quite to plan. My nerves got the better of me during the long wait for confirmation of the lack of a comfortable place for Jesus to sleep at the end of the opening lines and resulted in a failure to produce the intended ringing sound when my beater struck, not the meat of the triangle, but the outer edge, producing a dull clang that reverberated around the hall to not very well stifled giggles from other kids and their unsuitable parents.
That clang encapsulates my music career — later failures to learn to play the harmonica, guitar and ukulele proving the point.
Still, it saved my parents splashing out 50p on any other instrument for under-achievers.