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The Last  Chord


It is one of those ecstatic false relations where the tenors rub against your d-sharp with their resolute d-natural and the conductor reflects the whole emotional impact with a wrinkle of his nose and a quivering upbeat...


Quite without warning, you enter the timelessness of the occasion.


The Church is the same, but darker. The light blue paint of the ceiling reverts to the original smoky hues of centuries ago. The choir lights are now smouldering candles.  All the tenors wear droopy moustaches and the basses sport bushy lamb-chops.


The sopranos have turned into little boys, half-buried in their ruffs. The beautiful Angelina retains her beaming face and grey-green eyes, but her head is now that of a rascally first treble, who is making furtive gestures to his neighbour.  Angelina's soft long hair is now close cropped.


You look away sharply, disconcerted with you feelings for the boy which Angelina has become, and you glance above the organ to try to find the angel with the incongruous white eyes. But it is no longer up there. The music is still present but the notes of the passing chord hang there like incense,waiting for a new gust of harmony to blow it away.


Angelina winks at you!


The boy makes another furtive gesture - he has all the time in the world, since he has no note to sing in this precise moment of timelessness.


You watch the conductor, not daring to take a breath in case your neighbour breathes at the same time an you both disrupt the chord.


How long can this go on? How much breath is there left in you while your d-sharp is having its bottom so pleasantly rubbed by the d-natural of the tenors?


It could wear a hole through the paper you are holding, pierce the wooden stalls, break the stained glass image of St Michael and curl the tenors' moustaches.

There is suddenly a smell of roasting pigeon and burning wood. There is a cracking of glass held in place by lead strips. The ink of the notes on the paper is erased.


All this happens in a split second in your mind while the tenors continue to rub your bottom louder and louder. And the boy's gestures are become a trifle obscene - surely someone is going to notice?


The roasted pigeon thuds to the ground outside in the churchyard and a cat pounces on it just before suffering the same fiery fate as its prey. You can see this happening because the wall is melting.


The ecstasy continues....

The bottom of your d-sharp is being rubbed so hard that it could vaporize at any moment, but you keep it resolutely in place.

The angel with the white eyes is now visible again, but larger than you remember it, because it is falling, flying down towards you and moving its lips as if it wants to join in the chord.  The conductor sees this and brings in the angel with a wild sweep of his arm.


The sweetest of top e-s pervades the oppressive chord, crushing you and the tenors, confusing Angelina, who was about to come in too soon, and startling the bushy basses. The walls of the church have now disappeared and the heat and brightness no longer emanate from the ecstatic chord but from some awe-inspiring external force.


Angelina - or the boy she has become - bursts into flame. The angel completes its fall, squashing the cantoris stalls. The conductor, despairing of a resolution for the chord, turns into a pillar of flame for a few seconds and then crumbles to blackened dust.


The next chord never comes.


There is a roaring hot wind.


The composer silently weeps in his coffin.


Nobody can tell what the next chord should have been.




©1994 D W Solomons


The Last Chord

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