Thursday, June 16, 2016

From horses, to music, and back again. It's all good. White Horses. All good.

Andalusian with rider in traditional costume
Andalusian horse, related to the Lipizzaners, the White Horses
Last weekend was full of horses, and it was stunning, memorable, a new kind of festival. This weekend will be First Festival: music, local bands, people, crowds, and probably not a horse in sight. But for a moment, I want to step back in time, to a place in my story where horses and music came together.

For years, when I was a kid, I had weekly singing lessons. Not because I had any sort of perfect voice, but because I liked to sing, before I became too teenage-shy to do so, and because my parents thought it was a good thing to learn all about music, for which I am forever grateful. Every week I walked to my singing teacher's house, stood beside her as she played the piano, listened to her teaching, tried excruciatingly hard to hit the right notes, and practiced to compete in those days' equivalent of The Voice: singing or music festivals. Those particular forms of torture might still exist.

I remember two teachers: one was a much older lady, probably about 45 at the time (that's really really old when you're ten). She was kind and encouraging and I don't remember her name, but I do remember that I liked her. The other teacher was the mother of a school friend, and while I know that she was an excellent and well-respected teacher, for some reason she frightened me to bits. Every week. She wasn't angry or loud or nasty. I'm sure she was kind and a good mother and everything else, and she was much younger than the other teacher, but she frightened me to pieces. Maybe it was her military bearing or the way she hit all her notes pitch-perfect like a pistol on a target. Maybe I was in awe of her daughter, my friend, who could sing so perfectly and enunciate each-and-every consonant and vowel like they were staccato lyric videos in person. But anyway, my teacher scared me and I still can't explain it.

Arabian horse breed
White horse, not a Lipizzaner, but just as beautiful
So one day, we're preparing for a singing festival where I know I'll have to go all-alone in front of a bench of listening judges, all even more scary than my teacher, and they'll listen and make scratchy marks on paper, and then decide that OK, thank you dear for participating, but someone else won. Exciting, right? And my teacher, she asks, Alison, what song would you like to sing at this festival?

"On White Horses!", I say, immediately and innocently. I'd been watching the TV series, black-and-white, rerun of badly-English-dubbed Yugoslavian series about Lipizzaner horses being stolen and recovered and kids having adventures, and the theme song was bursting out of me all the time. "Yes, 'On White Horses', that's what I'd like to sing at the festival!" (The TV series, The White Horses, played again, and again, and again on English TV for so many years...)

"Don't be so silly. You can't sing that. You'll sing Bessie Was A Black Cat. Again."

That was the end of that.

Bessie was a boring, old, black cat who sat beside the fire from morning to eve, and that warm spot she never did leave. And if you search YouTube you'll see young girls still singing that darn song about that darn boring old cat. I think someone needs to record a metal version. It would work. The cat dies in the end.

I think I faked illness and missed the festival. I don't think I went to many more singing lessons; or maybe it was then that we changed to the other teacher; all lost in the passage of time.

But I do know this: white horses are forever connected with singing.
And I also know enough about singing to cringe when I hear a singer repeatedly slide up or down to notes that they can't hit. Forgive me; I was taught, too well, to know my own mistakes.

If you've never seen The White Horses, some of the episodes can be seen on YouTube, in their glorious, damaged-black-and-white format, overdub and all. This is the song. Enjoy.

(And if you want more horse-related music, check out the theme to Follyfoot... and for a really, really entertaining and beautiful movie, watch Into The West, about some Irish travellers and their magic horse, Tir-Na-Nog. Tell me you didn't crack up at the scene with the elevator; tell me you didn't cry.)

No comments:

Post a Comment