Many years ago, I sang in a choir. It was the choir that went with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. We were excited one day when they told us at rehearsal that we were going to sing The Dream of Gerontius with the orchestra at the Malvern Festival and Prince Charles would be in the audience. I was even more looking forward to it because I managed to get into the semi chorus in which we had a special section of our own and we would stand and sit in the front centre – the best place to be.
Unfortunately for me I was suddenly taken ill a couple of weeks before with severe cramp that totally paralysed me. In fact, I was rushed off to hospital. Shortly after I came to, I was visited by the doctor. By chance he sang in the same choir. He visited me every day and one day he said, “You want to sing in that concert, don’t you?”
“Is that possible?” I replied.
“I’ll make it happen,” he said, and he was as good as his word. I was still in hospital on the day, but he arranged for someone to bring my dress suit and bow tie. An ambulance took me from the hospital to the centre of Birmingham where I joined the coach and stretched myself across the back seat.
We arrived in Malvern and sang through the rehearsal with the conductor Yehudi Menuhin. The orchestra were wonderful, the stirring music was emotional and intense.
We broke for a meal, got changed and returned to the platform. We stood for the royal party, and stood, and stood. They were delayed. We all waited.
Eventually the Prince arrived and took his place. There was a hush, and it began. The orchestra swept in and swelled to a climax, and we began to sing. I realised to my horror that I wasn’t going to make it. The long wait had brought back the cramp and I just had to be still with my legs stretched out. As the choir sat, I said sorry to the man on one side and the woman on the other and went directly to the floor and as they sat I lay stretched out for the entirety of the piece. Maybe the Prince looked up and noticed a gap like a smile with a missing front tooth.
I survived my enforced rest and returned back that night to the hospital.
So, I sang a page or two to the prince but the rest of my time twiddled my thumbs on the floor, but I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world and was always grateful to that doctor.