Yesterday I was on about the Blackstairs Film Society and reviewed the Main Feature. The astute among you will have twigged that there must have been another film. And there was, and it was brilliant also - in a no-car-chase paint-drying sort of way. "You won't get that in a chemist" is a short film about the Southend Singers in Wexford Town. This is a community choir whose average age must be about 65. The film traces their lives through a year of Tuesday night meetings where they learn to sing by listen-and-repeat without sheet-music. I've written about this sort of Singing Together thing before: if you ever get the chance to do this sort of thing seize the opportunity - you will be a better person during and ever-after the experience. I've also written before about cracking open the door of opportunity so that ordinary people can sing their hearts out in public ad maiorem Dei gloriam but also to the greater glory of both singer and those to whom they sing. And speaking of ad maiorem Dei gloriam, I've also had words to say on the importance of song on pilgrimage. The Chemist is a film about singing and learning to sing but it's also a hymn to community, to inclusion, and to empowerment. It's not for nothing that the theme tune and the subject of their pinnacle performance is You Raise Me Up.
The film is shot in documentary style hearing these elderly people - the youngest is probably the daughter, who 'has The Downs', of one of the ladies - sing, but also reflecting on how much their involvement means to them. Monday rolls by in double time in anticipation of Tuesday and Wednesday is taken up with thinking and cahtting about the fun they all had the night before. That only leaves Thursday to Sunday for the quotidian world of Wexford. One suspects that, but for the existence of the Wexford rissole, life during those four days hangs heavy.
Another wonderfully normative theme in the film is the fact that these elders are practicing to sing with the local primary school. The idea that children should have a relationship with adults who are neither family nor teachers is somewhat weird in the wonky world we now inhabit. One of the great sadnesses of my father's declining years was that he felt that he couldn't go and help a child who'd barked his knees falling over on rough ground. As his garden backed onto the part of the village green that housed the children's play-ground, that happened more often than for most of the rest of us. Any fule kno that the perp in a paedophila case is much more likely to Uncle Jim with his naked woodwork lessons than an unknown old chap with cruddy overalls and a straw hat.
So hats off to the Singers, the Southend Family Resource Centre, Teresa O'Leary, who shot the film and Murt Flynn & Brian Hand who helped with the writing and editing. Thanks -You've Raised Me Up!