“I’m telling you, Organ Scholar, that I have perfect pitch!” Penelope is pouting a little, barely a moment away from stamping a dainty foot, no doubt.
“Go on then. Sing me a ‘C’”
A beautiful, clear note soars to the very rafters and fills the Chapel with a sound like clarion glass. A mumbled applause murmurs from the rest of the assembled Choir. Organ Scholar taps his chin thoughtfully.
“That’s not perfect pitch, that’s relative pitch, Penelope. But a grand attempt, all the same.”
“Come, come now, daaarrrrlings, let us have another run through,” The Master’s Wife claps her hands smartly to herd her young charges and shoots the briefest of glances in the direction of us, the audience.
Well, I think she is most likely trying to catch the attention of Head Porter – his ardent overtures from the other evening clearly still fresh in her mind. His surprisingly successful attempts at charm continued well into the evening and seemed to hold quite an interest for The Headmistress, despite the dubious assistance of myself and Professor Duke.
The winsome wink goes unnoticed by Head Porter who is somewhat distracted by his phone. The Dean spots it, though, and appears less than impressed. He gives Head Porter one of his celebrated vicious stares, which completely confuses the poor chap.
“What have I done?”
“The Master will have your guts for garters if he catches his wife looking at you like that.”
“Ooo, the sudden, I bet that’s what happened to the Music Professor!” Professor Duke chimes in, rather too loudly.
“Quiet in the stalls, please!” The Master’s Wife directs her comment firmly in our direction and we ruefully acquiesce. The Choir are about to begin their dress rehearsal and a select audience of myself, Head Porter, The Dean and Professor Duke have been invited to attend. Actually, it was Head Porter who was invited but he absolutely insisted that we all come along. Safety in numbers, you see.
Organ Scholar raises his conductor’s baton in a manner much more hopeful than I have seen before. Perhaps the pitch perfect Penelope has bettered their skills? Pitch relative. Must get these things right, of course.
As they break into their opening bars, it is instantly clear that the Choir have improved considerably. Penelope leads the charge from the very centre, her voice strong and steady – a blazing guiding light for those less certain voices around her. Less certain they may be but they are no longer the ear piercing death-rattles of rehearsals past. A few of them are actually pretty good. There also seems to be an element of tactical play- I notice that some of the Choristers are merely miming. I imagine their vocal ranges are beyond redemption so it is just as well they look so super in their elaborate robes.
One of these silent performers is strikingly familiar. The fringe is a little floppier than memory serves and the chin rather more bristly, but there is no mistaking him.
Hershel! The absolute bugger. He is supposed to be keeping a low profile.
Luckily, The Dean doesn’t seem to have recognised his former foe, engrossed as he is with the unlikely preoccupations of The Master’s Wife. Her attentions are certainly not upon the Choir. Head Porter, however, remains firmly focused on his phone.
“You’ve been checking that all day,” I whisper to him, keen not to disturb the rousing performance we are supposed to be watching. “What’s up?”
“She hasn’t text back yet!” Head Porter replies in hushed but somewhat desperate tones. “We were texting all day yesterday but she didn’t reply to my good morning text today. What do you think it means?”
“It probably means she’s busy.”
“She wasn’t busy yesterday,” Head Porter huffs. “That was Wednesday. I wonder what she does all day on Thursdays? You don’t think she’s gone off me…”
“Hey, hey, hey, dadblameit!” the Professor warns. “Keep it down or else she’ll hear you, and I might get in trouble!”
I lean closer to the Professor in order that I may speak surreptitiously.
“Listen, Professor – I’ve spotted Hershel lurking at the back, there. The minute the show’s over you need to get The Dean out of here.”
“No way! Him?” the Professor bobs his head back and forth, trying to get a better view. “Rats and a Heifer. Just when things were starting to go smoothly. I’ll suggest going for a drink or two or three to the Dean. He’ll like that.” He thinks for a second. “And you should join us, too!”
“Believe me, I don’t turn down two or three drinks lightly,” I reply. “But I want to have a word with our young friend, here.”
“Oh goody. Make it very stern.”
“Hmm! I want to know what the little bugger thinks he’s playing at.”