People tend to think that I am a fast thinker, but I’m really not. I’m very fast at data retrieval (but only if you ask the right question), I talk very fast (but only if I get excited first), and I can see implications very quickly (though only certain kinds). I can write and compose quickly, too. I must be quickwitted, right?
However, I am not a very fast thinker if you present me with a situation that is outside my expectations, or too large to answer in a precise way, or at a low energy moment. So I tend to get caught wrongfooted a lot, and only figure out what I should have done or said when it’s too late.
Thus my extreme pleasure in today’s proactive moment, though really it wasn’t anything big.
Usually, the choir I’m in is led by our music director. He took off today, so one of our other parish musicians led us and played the music. So there I was, flipping through the hymnal and checking my pagemarkers, when all of a sudden I was informed that I’d be playing tambourine on the recessional hymn because it was Celtic.
This is the sort of moment which crashes my brain. If I was reading it on a page, I’d think logically: “But I don’t particularly want to play tambourine in church. I’m not particularly good at it, anyway. And tambourines aren’t Celtic. Unless you’re in Galicia, and that’s not the same kind of tambourine.”* But for some reason, when presented to my face, all my brain can think for the first five or ten minutes is, “Whah?”
So I didn’t say anything during the rest of choir practice, and I didn’t say anything when I went up to the loft, but all the time these thoughts were fighting their way out of the “Whah?!” stage. It took until it was almost time for Mass for me to think, “But bones, bodhrans and small drums are Celtic.** And we have small drums.”
So abandoning the tambourine, I ran downstairs, outside church, and back to our practice space (the music classroom). I grabbed a smallish skin-headed drum that could sound like a bodhran, and I even found one of those two-headed bodhran cipins (though everybody except the Irish dictionary really calls them “beater”) which was in the drumstick box for some odd reason. Then I tore back up to the choir loft, and I told my plan to today’s director. (Very important. Musicians and directors don’t like being surprised. Probably because it makes them have a “Whah?” moment.) All was approved, and all went off without any particular hitch.
So I’m still a lousy percussion player, but because I was proactive, I punctuated the Irish recessional tune with an instrument that doesn’t give anyone stylistic cognitive dissonance or seventies flashbacks.
Still, life would be a lot easier if people would submit all questions and directives to me in writing.
* You may have heard a ceili band at some point that had a tambourine. If so, they were tragically misguided, and it was probably in the seventies.
** Wooden bones and their equally clattery metal variant, the spoons, are probably not recommended for liturgical use. Big huge loud kettledrum-sized drums are also Celtic, but if they sound too much like a lambeg you’ll give people Orange Ulster nightmares. So… probably not a great plan in certain parishes. Various sorts of bells, including the musical “branch” of chimes, are also ancient of use; but mostly seem to have been used as a summons to church or an announcement that one should listen up because a poet was coming, not as percussion or a lead instrument.