Here as promised is the first chapter of my novel. There is a prologue which I have omitted. The book is based on the Schubert song cycle Die Schöne Müllerin. There are 24 songs and 24 chapters. The cycle tells a tale of a three sided love triangle. It ends in tragedy. A CD of the songs accompanies the book and is already available on iTunes.
The Beautiful Miller’s Maid
Song One – To Wander Die Schöne Müllerin Schubert
It became necessary to hunt for a few little girls again to sing alongside the boys in The Pied Piper. The girls parts would be small, just a couple of solo lines. This did not stop Simon King from writing some horrible musical lines full of augmented fourths for the poor little girls whereas the boys lines were a piece of cake as Simon knew how to write for young male voices.
It was decided in desperation and as a last resort to audition girls from the local London Professional Arts Schools of which there were three. These schools were actually ballet schools providing child ballet dancers for the Royal Ballet which would not allow children from its own school on stage at this time, along with children for musicals and television. Some of the little ballet dancers had singing lessons.
If the girls could handle one line and were small they would do at a pinch. Naturally more trouble was taken with the boys, as they would have the major parts.
One morning in April Simon, without Trevor who could not bring himself to be present on this occasion although wild horses would not have stopped him being at every audition when young boys where involved, found himself in a small room in a Regency House in Hyde Park listening to a selection of young girls from London ballet schools that had already been pre selected by his gay but very creative director Louis Crick. It was not encouraging.
The morning was almost over when a tiny little fourteen year old with mousey hair and a very old singing teacher who was obviously a bit the worse for wear and very nervous entered the room. Simon had made sure that his name was not mentioned to the little girls although the singing teacher knew very well to whom she was about to perform, Britain’s foremost classical composer, and it scared her stiff. Dutch courage has been called for.
The last little girl curtsied, which Simon found vaguely amusing, why didn’t Trevor do that? and started to sing, a sentimental Edwardian song, “The Second Minuet”. She sounded a little nervous and tremulous but her voice was clear and true and she had, something, a special quality and nothing else had aroused any interest that morning and she was small.
The little girl finished curtsied again very prettily and her singing teacher relieved it was all over made haste to collect the music and leave.
“Just a moment” said Mr. King “Have you anything that you could sing a little faster?”
“No I am afraid she hasn’t” said Miss Wakefield, for that was the singing teacher’s name. “I am so sorry”.
The little girl seeing her chance of fame and fortune fading away jumped in with alacrity. “Oh but Miss Wakefield what about “The Fairy Pipers? I can sing that!”
Miss Wakefield gasped in horror. “The Fairy Pipers” was a Victorian musical hall song with double entendre, which had gone unnoticed by a young innocent fourteen year old but Miss Wakefield knew was highly unsuitable for performance to the greatest British living and very gay composer. Miss Wakefield was not going to let her lack of musical taste let her down on such an occasion. She had her standards.
“So sorry I haven’t got the music, come on Antoinette and she pushed Antoinette out of the room.”
“Oh but Miss Wakefield” said an anxious little voice “You always play it from memory!”
Then Simon used all his little boy charm. He was not really interested in this little girl, she could have walked out and he would never have given her another thought but he was bored and decided to try his ‘little boy lost ‘act to see if it would work and it did. Like a charm.
Simon had this ability and charisma to make people fall in love with him almost instantly. It was enchanting and it worked every time on male and female alike. It was hard to resist. Many women in his past had been bowled over by this feat. Lorna Winter was still enthralled. Simon knew he could do it and he secretly enjoyed it. Trevor knew this too and took great care to see any female conquests were disposed of rapidly, even Lorna would go as soon as Trevor could get an opportunity. But Lorna was canny.
“For me” said the little boy lost seductively looking into Miss Wakefield’s eyes, “Just this once?” and Miss Wakefield did. Never in her life had this elderly spinster been looked at in such a fashion. Miss Wakefield’s knees trembled and she caved in graciously. Miss Wakefield’s reward was never to see him again.
What happened next was momentous. Antoinette launched into the musical hall song, which was all about fairy pipers playing about at night with actions. She did the lot with a straight face and totally oblivious to the sexual innuendos. Finishing up with a “Come! Come!” and another curtsey. That’s three already thought Simon. What next?
How Simon and Louis kept a straight face throughout this song will never be known but they did. It must have been hilarious as never before or since has anybody auditioned for Simon King, England’s youngest and famous classical composer with a musical hall song about “fairies” and got away with it.
“Thank you Antoinette” said a shaken Mr. King “That was very nice” and he looked down to see who was to be next. Both of the men were about to explode with laughter and the quicker the elderly woman and the young innocent, mousy girl left the better.
“Excuse me” said a small but attractive speaking voice “But are you Mr. King, the composer of “Henry VIII”?
Mr. King, the said composer looked up in astonishment!
“Yes! Yes I am! How did you know that?”
I recognized you from the photo in the souvenir program. My mother took me to see Henry VIII at Covent Garden in Coronation year and I adored it, may I just say how I love all your ballets. I have seen “The Little Mermaid “Twice” and not to be stopped Antoinette started to sing the “little march”. As this had yet to come out on LP the only way she could have known this was to have seen it and more than once.
Mr. King took a longer look at this funny little thing who had recognized him and knew his “little march!”
“Thank you! Thank you Antoinette! Not many people actually saw that opera. It was not a success. I don’t think even Louis has seen it!”
“Come along, Antoinette, you mustn’t speak to Mr. King like that!” said a flushed and bewildered Miss Wakefield.
Mr. King took another long look at this little girl who had spoken up so knowledgably and he held out his hand to her and shook it with real warmth but he did not bother to look in her eyes as he had done for Miss Wakefield but he was impressed if only for a moment.
Antoinette curtsied yet again, smiled and deliberately caught Simon's eye with a cheeky little grin as if to say, “I’m something special!” It was weird. Simon felt that for once someone had enchanted him as he did with others. For a second Simon had fallen under the spell of a fourteen year old child and a girl child at that. He pulled himself together instantly but she had gone.
“I really cannot see what I see in her” remarked Louis “But she is small and can sing in tune. “She’d make a good Phebe with all those curtseys! Only joking! She’d never sing it. Stupid of you to make Phebe’s music so difficult! We’ll never find a child Phebe now!”
Antoinette got the job as she was the best of a bad bunch and there was truly no one else and duly arrived at Churston Devon for ‘The Pied Piper” rehearsals and the 1958 Churston Music Festival.
The Beautiful Miller Maid Chapter 2 part 1 can be found here!
The Beautiful Miller Maid Chapter 2 part 1 can be found here!