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A Shout From The Attic: And The Band Played On

Continuing his life story Ronnie Bray recalls the bitter day when he learned why he was not being allowed to sing in a schools concert at the local town hall.

To read further chapters of Ronnie's story click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page. Read also his engaging and entertaining Letter From America series.

During my last year at school, because of my beautiful boy soprano voice I was chosen to sing a solo in a rare appearance by the school in a concert at Huddersfield Town Hall. I had never had honour piled on me before and so I thrilled at the prospect of being thrust, literally, into the spotlight. I enjoyed my newly bestowed mark of distinction for several weeks before Mr Fred Armitage, my form teacher, informed me that there had been a reversal of the decision and I would not, after all, be singing my well-practised solo.

Although I was disappointed by this intelligence, I took it in my stride along with the other setbacks in my young life. That is until I overheard a conversation that broke my heart. Mr Armitage’s desk was at the side of the room, not in front of the blackboard. Immediately behind his desk was a large wooden cupboard, just to the right of the trolley on which the giant-sized radio on which we listened to Peter and the Wolf in Musical Appreciation classes.

I was getting something out of the cupboard or putting something away, when behind me I heared a classmate, Wendy Hunter, ask Mr Armitage why I was not singing at the Town Hall. His answer stopped my in my tracks. I was horrified and ashamed. He told her that I had been deselected because my clothes were not good enough. Wendy complained about the injustice, but the decision stood. I held my breath and wept silently but bitterly, keeping my face towards the cupboard’s interior until I regained control of my emotions. I wiped my eyes with the sleeves of my jersey, waited until I had stopped snivelling, and returned to my seat.

This was more than isolation, it was confirmation of my otherness, and it hurt. How deep those may wounds go is impossible to gauge, but those who are marked off by others for their difference, justly or unjustly, cannot help but know that their case is hopeless and irreversible. They know that they are outside, and can never get inside.

Their isolation is heightened when others gather in enjoyment and celebration, especially when bonhomie is dispensed to others with seeming extravagance and careless largesse. That is a soul-shrinking experience to those outside in the cold darkness, and when the laughter is stilled and the music stops, there comes upon the alien a sadness not unrelated to death that he was not brought into the circle.

Yet when the laughter is not stilled and the band plays on in the cosy bright-lit theatre of life, there may be a broken-heart locked outside in the cold and darkness of an emotional wasteland whose pain is made more profound and less bearable by the awful echo of those whose merriment continues in insensitive insouciance of the broken lives that scuttle in the mists of darkness, afraid to leave the shadows for the light, and shunning human company of whose benison they feel unworthy.


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