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Lucas Elkin: On planning

Another in the series of drop-in guest blogs. This time it comes following an over-nighter in London to do some bits and pieces of maintenance at my parents’ house, and to see them and how things are, as it had been a few weeks since I last saw Nick, my Dad.

It occurred to me on this visit what an efficient group of planners the Elkin clan are. My brother is now regularly organising teams of plasterers, electricians, carpenters and so forth as his plumbing business grows. Pretty straightforward really, he tells me.  Simply make sure you’ve booked the right people with the right materials for the right time in the right place, then it looks after itself. He’s right: with another of my hats on, this is the exact same approach I take to fixing show bands, orchestras and rehearsal accompanists for theatre productions I’m in involved in. Yet we’re both somewhat in the shade compared to Susan, whose diary is a work of art, even more so now that she has to include Nick’s various appointments and carers into an already packed work schedule.

The common element here is extensive pre-planning, which seems to come naturally to us all. And with my musician’s hat on, I’ve been turning my thoughts to funeral music (excluding the promise made regularly to Susan since I was about ten years old, gleefully promising her ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’!)  I’m in the final stages of rehearsal for Festival Players’ forthcoming production of Evita ( Whilst at a rehearsal last week some friends took some time out to sing through the Sullivan part-song “The long day closes” with me (words: Victorian sentimentality at its most gloopy; music: sublimely beautiful). Whilst I’ve known the four part male voice version for years, an SATB arrangement was thrown up by an internet search for something else, and I was interested to find out whether it worked, and how it sounded in the dropped key of Ab. Very well indeed is the answer, and my big thanks to Liz, Caroline and DeeJay (pictured, partially in 1940s costume shortly before the tech rehearsal!) for so willingly giving up the time, not to mention their superb sight-reading skills. I stalled a bit when they asked me why we were looking at it. I mumbled, embarrassed, about how it might work for a forthcoming funeral. Difficult to admit you’re considering suggestions for the funeral of person who is still alive.

I mentioned I went down to see how things are with Nick. Pretty dreadful, in truth. For the first time he lost track – temporarily – of who I was. Whilst I’ve always known that was going to happen eventually, the actual moment was quite tough and has left me a bit raw since. Susan writes regularly on this topic, but spending time with the confused, tearful, stumbling old man who was once my father is becoming ever more gut-wrenching. Perhaps finding a few minutes’ calm in choral music doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Here is a link to a recording of the Sullivan part song Lucas mentions. SE

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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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