Keeping it together

Last night I enjoyed a theatre trip with my family to see Iolanthe in Rugby.  A friend of my sister played Phyllis, the lead soprano and she acted and sang beautifully.  There were some other excellent performances and the cast generally seemed to have fun – the fairies’ individualised costumes were particularly amusing (Fairy Liquid had an apron, green bubbly hair and a bottle cap on her head).  The one thing that let them down every so often was timing – although I’m sure keeping a large cast and orchestra in time together is a challenge for any amateur production.

Next weekend I’ll be part of nine choirs singing Goodall’s Requiem, Eternal Light in Lincoln Cathedral.  I’m not sure who will have the task of conducting us.  Howard Goodall has an honorary Doctorate of Music from Bishop Grosseteste University College in Lincoln and we are performing another new work they commissioned from him.  Perhaps we might have a visit from the man himself?  Even so, the task of the conductor will be to lead nine very different choirs through two rehearsals and the evening concert.  I confess that my local choir are not the best prepared.  However well the conductor indicates the rhythm of the music (which varies to include 7/4, 5/4, 3/4, 4/4, 7/8 and 9/8 within the same apocalyptic 150 seconds), and however well s/he leads the two rehearsals over the weekend, s/he cannot be held responsible for the fact that some of us are woefully under-prepared.

We know some of the pieces quite well.  Others (including the aforementioned apocalyptic tour de force) may feature some careful miming or distinctly lowered volume from our contingent.  If we manage to stand near some of the choirs with plenty of choral scholars we may be able to follow them.  That is hoping that they aren’t intending to follow us.  Am I conveying a lack of confidence?  My point is that it won’t necessarily be the conductor’s fault if we make a hash of it.  There is perhaps some margin for error within a massed choir, although the soloists will be considerably more exposed.  Thankfully I doubt there will be a major inquiry even if the entire event goes disastrously badly (which I doubt will be the case).  I’m hoping we’re mostly there to have a good time.

Other areas of working together come under more serious scrutiny.  As I have been highlighting in lectures last term and this, failures in multi-agency working have frequently been identified as significant factors within cases of child abuse and neglect.  Too many reports have picked out failings in information sharing, lines of responsibility and listening to key people involved.  The phrase ‘this must never happen again’ is repeated.  More and more Government guidance is published spelling out how different agencies need to work together.

Of course, it is important that different professionals involved with children and young people do work together to protect those who are vulnerable.  Sometimes it’s an easy answer to blame the system rather than to pin responsibility on specific organisations or individuals who did not act in the way they should have done.  I don’t think high profile sackings of individual social workers are generally appropriate either.  Most of them are struggling to cope under unrealistic expectations and caseloads.  Some of them probably need help in keeping it together on a personal level before they can be expected to work effectively together with others.  Until then, they’ll probably do alright if they’re close enough to someone who knows the ropes.  And get some last-minute training.  And prayer.

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