Monday, 11 May 2009

7 August 1942

Boeboerketan hitam, which is black rice porridge, for breakfast.  This is what I thought was bramble soup the other morning.  Washed an undershirt, a handkerchief and a pair of socks.  A splendid outing today from 3.15 – 6.15pm commencing with our wing in SW triangle with nice NCO and East wing in SE Triangle, later together in SW ground.  PT and many games of handball.  I played in a team for the first time in my life in the first game England v Holland.  Received ball on my nose very first pass to me, breaking skin.  Also lost skin off the pad of right big toe from a blister.  I played inside right and do not think I did too badly for a first attempt.  Sundry aches and pains this evening, however, as a result.  As soon as toe better will try again.  We are very happy indeed with our present officers and guard.


While in the Bank I did quite a lot of singing in church, concert platform and radio.  The very first time I ever sung in public was during the war in 1917 at a concert to the troops in the Trades Hall in Belmont Street, if I am not mistaken, and the item was not on the programme.  I believe that somebody failed to turn up and to fill the bill I stepped on to the platform and sang ‘Hail Caledonia’ accompanying myself on the piano.  My effort was very well received and gave me the necessary courage to continue giving a song on subsequent occasions.  I shall never forget the day a few months earlier when I asked my mother to listen to my voice and to give her honest opinion.  I sang a few lines of a song and she just turned round from the piano, looked at me and said only sadly, ‘No Bill’.  My voice had probably not yet completed the transition period, I presume.  But it was a great blow to me as I had prayed for a long time to be able to sing.  I have never had any training as I have never considered such expense justified unless one intends to go in for singing professionally.  And the more trained amateurs I have heard, the stronger has become that opinion.  No amount of training can create a voice and the grafting of technique on to indifferent material too often produces results which are painful in the extreme to the unfortunate listener.  Singing should be natural in the first instance, phrasing and breathing being instinctive, otherwise the effect of training on individuals who do not possess the singing sense must result in an artificial performance which should not be justified by the description of singing.  That is of course, only my opinion and I am not at all qualified to argue the matter as my personal knowledge of the how, why and wherefore of vocalism is exactly nil.  I have sung for the mere pleasure of singing and if people enjoy listening, that is all I care for, except of course when they pay me for singing which is rather better, although candidly in recent years the latter consideration has, by reason of my improved circumstances had no appeal for me.  Very different was the case when I was a struggling bank clerk.  Then all was grist that came to the mill and in the years 1925 to 1926 I actually earned more by singing than I did in salary from the Bank.  I was tenor at Beechgrove UF Church for, I think, about 4 years.  Originally, I held that position unofficially as an act of friendship towards the organist and others and it was only after I had applied for the tenor leadership at St Machar Cathedral in Old Aberdeen that the powers that were in Beechgrove approached me  with an offer of the same remuneration if I would stay put – which I did.  The fee was £10 per annum.  While at Beechgrove we presented ‘The Messiah’, ‘The Crucifixion’, excerpts from ‘ Parsifal’ etc and on the secular side, in the Church Hall, ‘Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast’ and ‘The Death of Minnehaha’.  I sang the solo in ‘Hiawatha’ and this gained for me a handsome fee a short time later.  Gilcomston Church produced ‘The Wedding Feast’ not long after our effort and I desired greatly to hear the work from the outside, so to speak, because when one is singing in a choir it is impossible to hear the music as a whole.  On the evening that the Gilcomston performance took place I was working late at the Bank and just reached the hall in time for the first half of the programme, which consisted of vocal and instrumental solos.  In due course the tenor who was to sing in ‘Hiawatha’ came on to give a solo or two, but halfway through the first number, he suddenly stopped singing, bowed and walked off the platform.  It transpired that a sudden attack of laryngitis had seized him and rendered him incapable of uttering another note that evening and for some time to come.  There is only one solo in ‘’Hiawatha’ but its exclusion would be unthinkable.  Anyhow, someone had seen me sitting at the back of the hall and in the interval the conductor sought me out and asked if I would act as substitute soloist.  I was not dressed for the occasion having just come from the office, but I could not refuse.  A few days later I received a cheque for four guineas (£4.4.0 or just over $6) from the grateful committee.  Manna from Heaven and equally acceptable to me in those penurious days.

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