Foo Kin Poo

Last night’s audition with the BBC Symphony Chorus did not go well. I sang my prepared piece and went through some scales with Director Stephen Jackson, who then told me that I was not ready for them. He was very nice about it and both he and vocal coach Debbie Miles-Johnson said that I had the potential but needed coaching on technique. This made me feel a bit better but I left the BBC’s Maida Vale studios in a disappointed daze. Up to this point I’d always felt I had a good singing voice: not perfect by any means, and I’d never claim to be professional standard, but I thought I was good enough for any choir. I was wrong.

Although the BBC SC is an amateur choir it is probably one of the best in the world, and in retrospect I have to admit that as I sat in on last night’s rehearsal I was a little daunted by how good they were, and by the difficulty of some of the works. This was clearly the Big League compared to the other choirs I’ve sung with. I think I just underestimated the jump in quality.

I took the return Tube journey and emerged from Highgate Station at around 10.30pm. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and didn’t fancy returning to an empty flat (Karen’s away on a business trip) on an empty stomach (I’d had no dinner), so I decided to visit our local Chinese Takeaway on the way home.

I didn’t notice the name above the door but it was probably Jade Garden, or Wong’s Wok, or Foo Kin Poo or something. I ordered my Sweet and Sour Pork with Special Fried Rice and was told it would take around fifteen minutes to prepare. I thought they must have a low-powered microwave. They were a “restaurant” as well as a takeaway, although the four or five tables were more of a token gesture to qualify for the term rather than a serious attempt to create a pleasant dining experience. Still, it meant I could sit and have a drink while waiting my fifteen minutes, so I asked what was on their drinks menu. The Chinese guy behind the counter said, “Erm…” and turned around to peer into the glass-fronted mini fridge on the floor. Looking over his shoulder it appeared that my choices were limited to Coke, Diet Coke, Orange Tango, and Lilt: none of which was going to even dunk my sorrows, let alone drown them.

“Have you got any beer?” I asked, expecting the answer “No.”

He looked guiltily downward and I followed his gaze to a single crate of TsingTao Chinese beer by his feet.

“Well we have some, but it’s not usually for sale.”

I thought about this for a moment. What does he mean, “not usually for sale”? I guessed that the place didn’t have a licence to sell alcohol, but that it kept a little on hand just in case. Clearly the guy was still trying to make up his mind about me, because he hadn’t said No, but hadn’t said Yes either. Perhaps he was trying to decide whether I was a plain clothes copper about to bust him.

“Well… can I buy one from you?” I asked, bored of this impasse and conscious that my fifteen minutes were ticking away fast.

He didn’t reply but took a bottle from the box and placed it on the counter. He entered “service charge” into the computer to account for the £2 beer and I paid up for everything. The next challenge was to get the top off the bottle. I was tantalisingly close to that first swallow of room-temperature beer — the medicine that would numb the pain of tonight’s rejection. He rifled through the clutter of pens, staplers, and order pads under the counter and then eventually disappeared into the kitchen at the back to find a bottle opener.

I sat down and glugged it back. Despite being cheap (in quality if not in price) and warm, it tasted good. Later, the food tasted pretty good too; as did the several glasses of wine.

Nobody likes to be told they’re not good enough; that they haven’t made the grade. Some people try to cover it up with fake unconcern, pretending it didn’t bother them whether they passed or failed in the first place when it clearly did. I think it’s healthier to admit your disappointment and accept whatever sympathy might come your way from friends. Deal with it and move on. Of course it’s also possible to wallow in it disproportionately, which I’m in danger of doing if I carry on, so I’ll stop here.

I do want to be a better singer, and I still want to sing with the BBC SC. Stephen said I could try again in six months if I got some lessons in the interim, so I guess that’s what I’ll do. When I’ve finished licking my wounds, that is.

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About Chris Neal

Personal Technology Consultant. Tailored services and advice for people who want more from their technology.
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3 Responses to Foo Kin Poo

  1. Rob Kerr says:

    Unlucky — but take heart. When Stephen says someone has potential, he’s not just making small talk. The thing now is to find the right teacher.

  2. nannatu says:

    Interested to read your experience, as I am hoping to try out with BBCSC next summer. Did you ever go back in the end? What sort of choral experience did you already have before you decided to audition? Chinese takeaway is always the answer to disappointment 🙂

    • Chris Neal says:

      @nannatu no I never did go back, and I didn’t take their advice on lessons either. I had plenty of experience singing in choirs but hardly any singing solo, so I’m a reliable bass with good sight reading and timing, but for BBCSC you need to be more than that.

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