CBR – Cityscape (London)
When I was 15, I went to a choral camp in Pennsylvania. I lived in a city just outside the Bronx and hadn’t traveled very much; mostly to my grandparents’ houses in New Jersey and Massachusetts. I remember being just terrified on the ride there and overcome with shyness once I arrived. I was an alto, but a poor one. While I played the flute and could read music, I couldn’t read music when I sang. The camp was directed by Fred Waring, a famous bandleader and musician whose taste in music was not exactly current in the 1980s. He had us sing songs like Polly Wolly Doodle and old time gospel hymns.
I needn’t have been worried, as I made good friends with the girl next to me, who could not only read music, she had a fantastic voice. Altos don’t sing the melody very much (those damn sopranos), and I was wretched at harmonizing on my own. I piggy backed on her talent the whole time.
In between practice, I read Josephine Tey’s mystery, The Man in the Queue. It was one of those English mysteries I loved and found soothing. It also had an interesting plot that absorbed me. A man is in a line with other people when he suddenly falls down, stabbed with a very fine dagger. No one noticed him before he dropped down dead and the people around him were questioned by the police and cleared.
I was half-way through the book, when I had to do some laundry. All the singers were staying in dorms on Penn State’s campus, so I went downstairs to use the coin operated machines. I wanted to bring the book with with me, since I was caught up in the story and took every spare moment to read the book. After I put my clothes in the washing machine, I settled down to read, but I suddenly couldn’t find it. I went mad looking for it. Did I leave it in my room? Did I drop it? Did it fall behind the machine? I looked everywhere to no avail. I’m sure I pouted, as was my way in those days. Finally my laundry was done. I opened up the lid to find I had knocked my book into the washing machine and it was now shredded into hundreds of tiny pieces. I might have given a strangled scream. Why did it have to be a MYSTERY?
All this to say, I picked up the book 37 years later and enjoyed it. End of review.
Fred Waring died the very night of our concert. We were the last chorus he ever conducted. My younger brother laughed hysterically when we heard about his death on the radio, gleefully commenting that my singing had killed him. I have no proof to the contrary.