Wimbledon Choral Society
Library : Handel's Messiah - the Yorkshire Variation

(Editor's Note : do not under any circumstances attempt to read this silently or out loud with anything approaching a SW19 accent.   It just won't have the same effect.)

Most of us are familiar with the words and music of this great oratorio but old Yorkshireman Bill Jones had never been to a performance, and he tried to persuade a friend to go with him t'local Town Hall to hear it but his friend declined.

"Nay," he said, "that sort o'music's nowt in my line.   I like a good comic song or a lively jig me, but I reckon nowt to this sacred stuff as they calls it.   It's beyond me, that.   Another thing, there'll be none of our sort there.   It'll be mostly religious folk and swells done up in boiled shirts, and wimmen wi' nowt much on.   Nay, you go by thee sen and then you can tell me all about it sometime."

So, Bill went by himself and the next time the old pals met the following conversation took place:

"Well, cum on then ... how did you get on at Messiah?"

"Ee well!" said Bill "It were fair champion.   I wouldn'ta missed it for all'tea in China.   When I got there the Town Hall were crowded.   It were choc full o'folk and I had a job to get a seat but no wonder - it were all them singers -- they took up half the gallery, like.   There was a chap larking about on t'organ although he weren't playing nowt in particular, just running his fingers up and down as if he were practising.

Well, after a bit a lot of chaps came in carrying fiddles, then they brought in t'Messiah - well, that's what I took it t'be.   It were the biggest instrument on t'platform and it were covered in a big bag.   Well, they took the bag off it and then some bloke rubbed its belly with a stick and you should have heard it groan!    It were summat like a dying cow!

I was just thinking of going when a little chap came on, all dolled up in a white waistcoat and wi' a flower in his buttonhole, and everything were dead quiet.   You could have heard a pin drop!   He had a stick in his hand and started waving it about and all the singers stared at him ..... I reckon they was wondering what was t'matter wi' him.   Then they all started to sing and they hadn't been going long before they was fighting like cats!   I reckon he shoulda walloped one or two of 'em with that stick of his.   First one side said that they were t' King o'Glory then t'other side said they were, and they went at it hammer and tongs, but it fizzled out and I've no idea which side won.

Then there were a bit of bother about some sheep that was lost.   I don't know who they belonged to but one lot of singers must have been very fond o'mutton 'cos they kept on singing "All we like sheep".  I couldn't help saying to a bloke next to me that sheep's all right in moderation but I like a bit o'beef meself, and he looked daggers at me and said 'shhhh' so I shushed.

A lot o'wimmen stood up after that and a load of 'em looked as if they were ...... well ... getting' on a bit, you know.   Some of 'em must ha' been 65 if they were a day!   They sang "Unto us a child is born" and t'chaps sang back "Wonderful" an' I thought t'meself - Wonderful?  It's a bloomin' miracle!

After that they sobered down a bit and sang about a lass called Joyce Greatly.   I've never heard of her meself but the chaps had 'cos they all looked mighty pleased about it.   Then some bloke got up and said he were the king o'kings, another one said he was and then, blow me. they all started arguing about it.   I was getting a bit fed up when everybody stood up to see what was the matter and they suddenly shouted "Hallelujah ..... it's going t' rain for ever and ever".   Well, at that I jumped up and made straight for t'door.   I'd 'ad me money's worth and besides, I was thinking that if it were going t' rain for ever and ever I'd better get home before the floods came.

Still, it was a real good do though - you shoulda come but, oh, I do hope they find them sheep."


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