This morning I went to see Barny the Churchmouse.. THE MUSICAL.
As far as I’m concerned, you can keep Les Miserables, Chicago, and the Phantom, because when Barny the Churchmouse is in town, I am there on the first night. Or in this case First (and last) Morning.
Yes, I am referring to my 5 year old daughter Lily’s school production of Mary Gentry’s famous work, that I have never heard of. It tells the story of Barny the Churchmouse and how he inadvertently created the famous Xmas Carol, Silent Night, after a particularly heavy mouse night out in the local bier kellars. He was an Austrian mouse. Anyway, Barny got so drunk that he chewed through the organ pipes of his local church; OK not something you or I might do after a few shots of Absinthe, unless we were in Leicester, but stay with me on this one…cos I am sure it is all coming flooding back to you now, isn’t it? BARNY!? Yeah Barny! the out of his head Austrian churchmouse! Clearly it wasn’t a biggie at my local synagogue, Ealing Liberal, but come to think of it..as it was a converted church, I don’t know why we never thought of putting it on. We could have had little life size statues of Barny in chop liver decorating the stage, it would have been a smash!
There comes a time in every parents life when you have to crush the dreams of your child; and despite Lily following in the footsteps of countless generations of Rosengards, every single one of whom, history records, had the flattest voice in the whole world, I cannot bring myself to tell her that singing is not going to be a career option for her.
For hundreds of years, the Rosengards back in the Ole’ Country (pick any one of the following..Lithuania/Poland/Latvia Russia . because nobody in my family seemed to know exactly where the Ole’ Country was.).. had made a comfortable living being paid.. NOT to sing in their school choirs.
But as far as Lily is concerned, she has the most beautiful singing voice in the world. A voice that makes me understand what drove Maria Callas fans to buy her underwear at auction this week in case the divas knickers Fell into the Wrong Hands.. the hands of an underwear fetist who might know nothing about opera ,… maybe, perish the thought, a House, Garage, Hip Hop Trip Over, Acid Trance Hassidic Heavy Metal Country Aficionado.
My ex . Shirley had got to the church 45 mins early to hold two front row seats, to give us the best possible view of Lily’s performance as an Angel..(Or ‘Nativity Character’as the Programme Notes described her role.
Our seats were so front row, we ended up sitting in the middle of the assorted Villagers, Nativity Characters and members of the school orchestra. Unfortunately at the very last second, just before the show got going..a very large Grown Up person carrying a DOUBLE BASS (although it looked to me like a Treble Bass).. as if it was a matchstick, sat down directly in front of us, and that was the last that we were to see of our Lily for the whole 40 minute production. Well almost.
I was already in a bad mood before this, when, on perusing the programme ( ‘CD’s of this performance will be available afterwards from the Headmasters office at £9.99 each’) I had read that the title role of Barny had gone to the little bastard who had robbed Lily of the first prize in the school poetry competition just before Easter.
Everyone who was there that day knows Lily won it by a mile, with her rousing performance of ‘Missing’ by AA Milne : Which come to think of it, was also about a mouse. The judge, an Old Girl of the school who apparently wrote potboilers in the Jackie Collins style, had given first prize to this kid, who was clearly a 17 year old very short person posing as a 7 year old. This is not the sour grapes of a doting Dad in the Al ‘ I want a recount and I want it now or I will scream and scream until I am sick’ Gore mould. The kid had a five o clock shadow and a bass tenor voice.
OK I’ll admit Lily, for some reason that even to this day she has difficulty in explaining, forgot to take her hands out of her pockets or move an inch for the entire recital lasting fifteen minutes.. resulting in what the judge described as a “spirited but wooden performance.” But when did YOU last see a mouse with hands anyway?
Like I said ‘ SHE WUZZ ROBBED!’
” I nearly forgot..Lily asked me to tell you that you mustn’t wave at her during the play, .. she is not allowed to wave back anyway.” Shirley said. “No problem.” I replied.
The orchestra was just tuning up and I was wondering if Heaven really is full of posh blonde angels called Tatiana Honor and Charlotte, when an immensely tall, very well dressed man, who I was sure an Investment banker parent with UBSWarburgs and on at least £3million a year, got up on the stage and said “Hallo everyone, I am the vicar. ”
As he then went on to try and flog us several thousand St. Barnabas Xmas Cards he just happened to have on him, I wasn’t that far out. I was just pleased that he hadn’t spotted I had parked my car in the one parking space available outside…the one with the sign ‘Reserved for the Vicar’s car only’. Just as he was about to launch into the merits of the new St Barnabas Hedge Fund, he was interrupted by the arrival on the stage of the Headmaster, Mr. Alexander, who was able to make an announcement about turning off our mobile phones at the precise moment that his mobile actually rang. Not an easy thing to achieve. How we laughed!. This man has comic timing coming out of his fingertips. Although personally I would put money on it that he got someone to call him on his phone just for maximum effect.
The headmaster then launched into his major message for the Festive season.
“Will parents please refrain from making video recordings during the performance” he paused, “for copyright reasons.” Copyright reasons? This is a bunch of 5 and 6 year old kids performing Barny the Churchmouse! Who is the Grinch who is going to sue our kids? This pronouncement did not go down very well. In fact it was greeted by a huge tidal wave of “Oh No’s!” which sounded almost exactly the same to me as “What the f*** is he talking about!?”
I looked behind me. There were more film crews in St. Barnabas than outside the Florida Supreme Court.. Here we were, gathered together for this hugely important moment in our chidrens lives.. the School Xmas play and we were not being allowed to record our childrens immortal performances for posterity? I don’t mind telling you, it was pretty ugly in St. Barnabas for a few minutes.
Some of the Mum and Dad camera crews had even built overnight their own camera positions in the aisle, out of scaffolding poles taken from nearby construction sites Outside the church there were location trucks and caterers serving steaming hot coffee to the lighting crews.
As Barny got into full flow, I couldn’t hear a thing, and I was so close I was virtually part of the cast. I made a mental note to write to the Head suggesting they really should not take Silent Night too literally, and next year splashing out on a microphone, out of those CD royalties, might be a good idea.
I noticed one of the violinists looked like he had been out on the town with Barny the night before, as he was slumped in his chair, legs wide apart, playing through half closed eyes. One particular little shepherd, wearing a green dressing gown, spent the entire time making incredible faces at the audience. “Oh that’s Marco… Marco Pierre White’s son.” Shirley whispered. It reminded me of the response I’d got years ago when I had unwisely asked Marco for the pepper grinder at Harvey’s, MPW’s first restaurant.
Fifteen minutes into the production, with still no sighting of our daughter, I discovered that if I deliberately dropped my programme, ..as I came up again, if I leant at a 45 degree angle and, at the same time, crouched in a kind of Quasimodo impression,.. then just before my spine snapped in two… I could see Lily’s right ear and a bit of her ponytail. On my second attempt at this..I wanted to make a positive ID, by trying to see an eye, I tried to wave at the same time.
THIS WAS A MISTAKE.
As I crashed to the floor, my foot caught the pointed spikey bit at the end of Miss Homer Barker’s double bass ..and as she tried to stop it falling over, she lost her balance and fell onto the assembled ranks of Villagers and Nativity Characters… scattering them like tiny ten pins, but by some miracle missing Lily, who was now suddenly alone on stage right…. the last one standing.. clearly the star of the show.
Barny the churchmouse lay at her feet, he wasn’t moving.. (” THERE IS A GOD!”I thought).. as my wife once again remembered why she had divorced me.
Deep down I suppose I knew it hadn’t been a good idea to attempt’ the wave’ during Silent Night.
Lily and her mother have both refused to speak to me since this morning. ..and I overheard Lily asking her mother if its true that little children can adopt new Fathers.
As the ambulance arrived to take me to St Marys for a precautionary X ray, I handed her mother a roll of film someone had taken of Lily making rude faces at me as I lay on the floor amongst the wreckage.
“Darling, Daddy was very proud of YOU” I shouted as the ambulance doors closed.
COPYRIGHT.Peter Rosengard for Rosengardworld2000
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