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Dep on Tour: Observations

24 February, 2015

The debut blog of the inimitable tenor Ben Clark, touring with us in place of Jim, who has stayed home with his little baby Henry.

“It’s the rehearsal for our concert in Davidson. The group have recorded this programme, oh yes. Everyone looks relaxed, chatting, drinking tea. Do they know the fear in my head? The sweat, the jitters, the dry mouth? I’m the one performing this for the first time today: I’m a dep on tour. It’s a feeling like no other. And it’s great fun.

“Imagine my glee then at seeing fear in another. Ben thought he would be brave in his host’s house and hold his pet snake. It it a white corn snake with a small head and a pink forked tongue. Coiled round his arm and his host says to him, the snake can dislocate its jaw to four inches. It could coil round and strike ya. See Ben’s face turn the colour of the snake. Snake returned swiftly to snake tank.

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“I did my first concert with the group in June 2012. They’ve always been so welcoming. It’s daunting still, yes. Such old friends. Many founder members, met at university. I have friends from university, you can form strong bonds can’t you. I tend to be loud and can go too far sometimes. Will that happen? Good impressions always required. This blog too eh?

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“Davidson NC is charming. The lovely lady from the Pickled Peach café was persuaded to open up her kitchen and bring us lunch during our rehearsal. She’s called Jen, and is very friendly. I had spinach and blue cheese, and I’ve now had this two days in a row for lunch. Walnuts and cranberries as garnish. This to wash down last night’s southern speciality we had at our generous post-concert party. It was called Shrimp and Grit. It’s a Southern Thing. Shrimps, grit, feta cheese. I had three helpings with Pinot Grigio. Could have had more, may not have been polite.

“Our hosts are so kind. I’m staying with James. They’ve been so supportive and generous and cooked us scrumptious scrambled eggs washed down with coffee and juice. My bed also has six pillows. I slept soundly. Hopefully will again after the North Harbor Club supper later.

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“Thinking you’re through the woods after a day of sight-reading and another daunting challenge presents itself. Says Andrew to the group, “anyone fancy coming over the road to watch a handbell choir?”. Think I to myself, “OK”. Who could then be prepared to find oneself not an observer, but enlisted into a spontaneous and elite Hand Bell Ensemble (HBO), with ‘Amazing Grace’ on the menu. We’re on video, under scrutiny. Everyone films everything these days. Failure is not an option. It’s saved for eternity. Adrenaline arrives and pumps. Comes the inevitable downbeat. Its on bell ‘C3’, in Tom’s stentorian left hand, controlled by his sculpted bicep (he works out and eats loads of meat). He moves; no sound. Bell fail. Oh dear, disappointment, crushed expectation. Take two, the piece creeps into life. Unexpected major 7ths, clusters, swap bell, DROP BELL, Oh I have the tune!, listen, panic, relax, tremolo, observe, enjoy, elation, cadence we’ve done it! A thing of beauty! An instant HBO success! Let’s have another piece! And I can’t be out of tune here!

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“What will I be doing tomorrow? You don’t know Clark; you’re the dep. And what fun it is!”