Pause for Thought – a five minute read – 25

1 Corinthians 14 v 26 – 33

How many of you remember Skiffle music? Well for those of you who are under the ‘vulnerable’ age, it was a music genre of the early 1960s brought to us by people including Lonnie Donegan, Nancy Whiskey, and the Blue Grass Boys.

It had its origins in Southern United States and spread, (as it does), to the UK, having it’s two minutes of glory and then disappearing as quickly as it came. Skiffle was influenced by jazz, blues, and American folk, but the most significant thing about it was that it was performed on a mixture of manufactured and homemade or improvised instruments. – And yes I was for a short time in my school days a member of a Skiffle band.

For someone like me who at the time could not read a note of music, or play a note on any musical instrument, Skiffle was a dream come true. I mean a guitar generally has six strings which mean that you have to arrange your fingers to countless variations of positions on the strings and also strum six strings, using both left and right hands, but a Skiffle double base had one string.

It was made from an old tea chest, a brush handle, and a piece of string. One end of the string was secured to the edge of the tea chest and the other end to the top of the brush handle, which in turn was placed vertically on the other edge of the tea chest. By pulling on the brush handle the string was tensioned and the tea chest acting as a resonator emitted the sound.

I was a 13 year old bass player in a Skiffle band; – look out Royal Albert Hall here we come.

My school friend John Seymour, was just as musically illiterate , as me, so again Skiffle gave him the opportunity to shine ; – playing the wash board. He was the official wash board player in the band and his mother was totally confused when he asked for eight of her sewing thimbles so he could play the board with both hands, (a bit too ambitious as it turned out).

The wash board was not as elaborate as the double base, well it was a wash board when all said an d done, with a galvanised corrugated steel panel that he tapped with his fingers, (with the thimbles fitted).

Eric Smith, (he was in a year lower than Seymour and me), got one of the best parts in the band, he played the comb and tissue paper, (this was a comb with tissue paper stretched over it played like a mouth organ), which meant that he could stand at the front. He had a problem because he tried to play and sing at the same time the result of which was a bit of a disaster. He also generated a lot of saliva which made the tissue paper go soggy.

Eddie (Barny) Barnes, was the only one who had a proper instrument, he had a guitar that he bought from the church jumble sale for about a shilling, but no one knew how to tune it, in fact I’m not sure if it had all the six strings.

We did take part in a concert once, the end of term school talent concert. We were awful but it didn’t really matter, our parents said we were very good.

All my children and most of my grandchildren have learned to play a musical instrument ranging from, violin, piano, clarinet, guitar and flute. Some of them have performed at the Derby Assembly Rooms and other venues around the City.

My regret is that my choice of musical instrument has never been melodic. I’ve played the drums for over 25 years but it’s difficult to get a melody out of the drums.

It’s when all the instruments play in harmony together that the holistic sound is achieved and each individual sound blends together into a cacophony of high, low, mid- range and rhythm which is the complete musical experience. It is immaterial whether it is an orchestra, choir, rock band or Skiffle group, it’s the working together that makes it work.

Being a follower of Christ is not a matter for individualism, everything about Jesus, given by Jesus, or emanating from Jesus is meant to be shared or given away to others. The disciples came from different backgrounds, social levels, and intellectual abilities but Jesus brought them together into one orchestrated way of life that along with the Holy Spirit enabled them to spread the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ across the known world and beyond.

Similarly Paul in his letters to the churches encourages harmonious living and the believers working together with a common aim, to spread the good news, not as individuals but as the united body of Christ.

How often do we witness in our church communities fragmentation, groups within groups, and cliques, despite the clear message of unity, harmony and love.

Unlike the Beatles and some other groups our Skiffle group didn’t survive. The tea chest went back into the cellar for dad’s tools, the brush handle was re-introduced to the brush head and the string went to dad’s allotment to support the peas;- Probably the best thing all considered.   

Derek T.

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