Laying ghosts to rest

Yesterday was Carol Service Sunday – aka a very, very long day in the church calendar that sees early starts, massive mince pie consumption, mulled wine aplenty and plenty of carols. Yesterday also saw me lay to rest a ghost that has bothered me for fourteen years…

When I was an idealistic Sixth Former, I wanted little more in life than a Prefect’s badge. [Ok, who am I trying to kid, I really wanted to be Head Girl.] I got one, and in addition, acquired the visual monstrosity that was the Choir Captain badge – ironically, my co-captain and I fought for several months for a badge that identified our status, once we got them, we refused to wear them except on formal occasions. The job of Choir Captain was essential to be the Music department’s dogsbody – taking choir registers, chivvying no-shows, cataloguing the music library (actually, I chose to do that for funsies). At Christmas, there was a specific role: to prepare and perform with a choir of juniors (known as the Pippin Choir – don’t ask, it’s to do with apples) at the annual concert – this proved to be my first, and until this year, only experience of choir conducting. 
This year, through a chapter of accidents, there was no one available to conduct the Christmas gospel choir at the morning carol service and thus, I think because I am a choir nerd, I was asked if I’d step up. The prospect was terrifying. I can remember little of my Pippin Choir conducting of 1998, other than that I was anxious about the fact that school rules dictated that my shirt had to be tucked into my skirt and thus, I could do little to hide my posterior from the audience. (I was 17, of course that’s what I was concerned about!) I do remember that I wasn’t eager to repeat the process. But thankfully, the church choir was accommodating and all went smoothly yesterday morning, in fact, I rather enjoyed myself.
In action during the rehearsal. 
See the baby? That was the only time he wasn’t watching the conductor, 
he’s going to be a singer for sure! 
However, that wasn’t the only Choir Captain task that was being repeated yesterday. Fourteen years ago, I missed a couple of days of school in order to spend 24 hours being grilled at the University of Cambridge (it did not go well). The night I arrived home, I received a message saying that, as Choir Captain, I’d been picked to sing the Once in Royal solo that would begin the school carol service the following morning. I was rather proud and excited, but partly thanks to nerves and an absence of rehearsal, when it came to the service I fluffed the high notes and was mortified. 
It says something about my personality that I’ve held on to my failure in this performance for nearly half of my life. (I’m also virtually certain that no one who was there remembers my error at all.) In fact, I could probably tell you of every single mistake I’ve ever made in my not particularly impressive solo singing career – in fact I did tell you about one I took five years to recover from. I possibly ought to look into this. Occasionally, there have been opportunities to redeem myself, but they’re rare. Sometimes, such redemptive opportunities take fourteen years to come along…
Last week I was asked to sing Once in Royal at the start of the evening carol service (and only because the other contenders were already down to sing solos in the rest of the service). I said I’d think about it, genuinely considering refusing because of what had happened all those years ago. In the end, I agreed, but was racked with nerves as the clock ticked towards 6pm last night. Screwing up the opening of the biggest service of the year was just not an option. 
Never have I been more pleased that I’m no longer the angst-ridden 17 year old I once was. Last night, I held my nerve, remembered to breathe and successfully hit the high notes. Four simple lines of music were sung and a ghost was lain to rest. 
This is not me blowing my own trumpet. I didn’t really care what people thought of my singing, what mattered was that I proved to myself that I could do it. That I didn’t give in to my fear. That I didn’t let myself believe that I couldn’t do it. I don’t need to do it again (though I probably will be at Wednesday’s service). It is done.
The moral of this story is simple: just because you got something wrong at the age of 17 doesn’t mean that you’ll still get it wrong when you’re 31…

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