My only regret was that I did not get a picture of her. But there is still time, and I believe I shall.
We were once again headed toward Penzance for the privilege of a Mousehole concert. Our driver appeared from out of the mist of rain that had begun to fall, and then we were off. “We’ll collect Jean, along the way,” he said.
Jean. She was the redoubtable and kindly lady in her 80s whom I had met before on a similar sojourn. We ‘collected’ her and then splashed our way along toward the coast. “Pray don’t speak to me, for it is a poor night for driving and talking at the same time,” said our driver. We agreed utterly, and remained mum as rain and headlights pelted our windscreen. Jean was not worried. “Our Eric is a wonderful driver,” she put in. “He has been driving me about for years now.” Her accent was not that of the Cornish folk so familiar by now. I wondered where it was from, and determined to find out this very night.
At curbside the Brotherly Traveler and I surrounded Jean and escorted her to the door, where we paid our pounds and found excellent seats (we always arrive early when ‘Our Eric’ drives. He was once in the Merchant Navy and is a stickler for time). There was plenty of time to talk.
“Where is your accent from, Jean?” I asked her.
“Manchester, it is,” she said. “It’s where I grew up.” Ah, I thought. That explains the difference. “I can understand it much better than I understand the Cornish..” said I; and she laughed.
As we chatted, I started to notice what Jean was wearing. She had on a lovely cardigan and this is one reason I wish I had a photograph. The cardigan was camel colored, with rounded gold buttons. Then there was a pale pink sweater-top, scarf, and tweed skirt. It all blended perfectly together without being ‘matchy-matchy’. It could have been picked out by a Nordstrom personal shopper. I was, as the Americans might say, ‘wowed’.
After I had complimented her outfit a few dozen times, the concert began. In filed the men, a lovely concoction of young and otherwise, all dressed up and with somewhere to go. This time there was not only one Male Voice Choir, but two! You will know by now that there was not a scrap of music anywhere on that stage, apart from the conductors’. They had memorized not just the words and the music, but the heart of each song as well. It was all lovely, and moving, and charming. Cornwall at its very sweetest.
At midpoint, the audience was invited to stand and sing the grand old hymn, Love, Divine, All Loves Excelling. With the two choirs (113 men together) and the congregation, and the massive organ, that roof was just about raised up to its heights. But the best part of it was singing next to Jean. We were handed the words of the hymn, but did Jean need them? No! She sang those verses with nary a glance, her high voice sweetly melding with my lower harmonies. I suddenly choked up, and wished the hymn need not end but might go on and on, with unlimited verses. “Heaven,” I whispered. “Just like in Heaven.”
But it did end, and then the concert as well as we all clapped and cheered and gathered our rain gear. We were whisked away into the dark of night as the rain fell once again. Along the way I asked, “Jean, what if I came up to see you?”
“Me?” she asked.
“You! What if I came this week? We could have tea!”
“Oh, aye, we would that..”
So I get to see her again! Jean, the redoubtable and kindly lady of the camel colored cardigan and golden buttons, whose presence will always remind me of a place where the music never ends, and the verses are unlimited.
See you along the Way!
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in Heaven we take our place.
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise!