F6. That was the ransom note. One note, held longer than should be humanly possible, and held with all the grace and artistry of the most accomplished sopranos. A note that not even the most experienced and well-trained of singers could pull off.
Well, that’s not true – but they did have to work at it, couldn’t just pull it out the hat as it were and here was this boy, from the farm, stood here before us and belting it out like it was the easiest thing in the world. This boy called Anton, who could neither write music, nor read it, and here he stood, holding us all to ransom with his clear, perfect pitch.
A shocking arrogance and a mean boy, that was Anton. Beady-eyed and nasty, he’d push you down the stairs as soon as look at you, and he bullied the younger boys with cruelty that you just knew would transpire into some violent streak when he was an adult.
My job as choir master at Boys High had brought me into contact with many boys whose parents believed they were prodigies. Their ‘little angels’ who “had a gift” – had a gift for giving me a headache, more often than not! I can’t tell you how it pained me to smile in agreement. Never counter a parent’s belief, no matter what the evidence suggests otherwise.
But this year’s operetta, ‘Nameless’, needed a boy soprano who pitch a perfect F6 and hold it, sustained without syncopation for breath, for a full thirty seconds. Any less, and the show’s crescendo, its climax, was merely a point in time; any wavering to the soprano’s voice and the sentiment was forcibly contrived. Only thirty seconds’ clear, strong voice would be good enough, only then would the production be a work of craft, only then would the choir be recognised as a fully credible part of the curriculum, and not a time-filler on the weekly roster.
And in a school of over a thousand boys, only one, this boy Anton, could produce that note, and hold it. And when he did I wanted to weep: weep for the beauty in that note, the aching pain in the voice and the deep sense of pointlessness that such a crude and unaware denizen as Anton could produce it. Such a waste, as he himself was only interested in singing this role so that someone else who truly understood the part, who relished breathing life into it, would not be able to. He did it, to keep them out.
But until anyone else could bring their abilities to bear upon the role in a meaningful way there was but Anton, and the production was not mine to change, so on we must, and Anton, for all his rottenness was the only one to bring it to life, and in those thirty seconds, and with bold voice in one pitch-perfect note, he held us to ransom.
© Dave Luis 2012. All Rights Reserved.