St Albans Cathedral, 12th March 2005, 7.30pm

Mass in B minor
J S Bach

Lucy Crowe soprano
ó Allen soprano
James Laing countertenor
Philip Salmon tenor
Robert Rice bass
St Albans Bach Choir
Simon Johnson organ
City of London Sinfonia
Andrew Lucas conductor

Vitamin C#

My learned friend Tony Tenore seems to have been uncharacteristically quiet this term. This puzzled me for a while until the explanation dawned on me: there is absolutely nothing funny that can be written or said about the B Minor Mass. And if there were, it would probably be sacrilege to put it down on paper. To confirm the point, I did a quick Google search for “B Minor Mass jokes” and came up with nothing, except for one feeble limerick in poor taste. So with Susan clamouring for copy for her excellent newsletter, I was faced with the real prospect of letting her down. Until last Monday.

I arrived nursing a cold, and was seriously considering sitting out the rehearsal in the balcony. That is, until I realised that nearly everybody else in the choir seemed to be coughing, spluttering and wheezing at least as much as I was. With the concert on Saturday-week, this was serious. Yet the only person still in rude health (or so it seemed) was my melodious friend Tony. I was keen to find out how he’d escaped. “Simple” he replied. “Vitamin C. That’s all.” Had I tried it? he pursued. Indeed I had, but those chewable tablets are pretty revolting. His face brightened. “The orange-flavoured ones, yes. But have you tried the blackcurrant ones you can get in that emporium featured in the pantomime about a cat?” Since my father used to grow masses of soft fruits, and made jam by the hundredweight (almost) for four growing children, I needed no introduction to the gastronomic delights of blackcurrants. But a vitamin C tablet is still a vitamin C tablet. “Not if you take it with chocolate” persisted Tony. “Chocolate and mint isn’t bad”, he continued, “and chocolate and orange is quite tolerable. But chocolate and blackcurrant is exquisite! Try taking a blackcurrant-flavoured vitamin C tablet with a small square of chocolate, and you’ll be hooked!” “Sort of … « Vitamine C à la Forêt Noire »?” I suggested. So at the next opportunity, I went down to Boots and got some of the said tablets, and a bar of chocolate, and tried it. And indeed I can vouch that it was nothing less than heavenly. What a shame the maximum recommended dose is only 2 tablets a day. So I finished the chocolate. I can get some more tomorrow.

When I next saw Tony, I asked him if he had any other culinary secrets up his sleeve. “Well”, he replied, “if you accompany a bowl of mushroom soup with a peanut butter sandwich, the peanut and mushroom flavours combine into something almost exactly like Camembert cheese!” He barely finished his sentence before pulling out a large hanky and sneezing into it loudly. If you ask me, he’s heading for quite a nasty cold.

©Philip Le Riche, 2005

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