The Bluebottle Boys: The Choir & the Peace Corps

The Bluebottle Boys – Chapter 2, Part 3 – Winter 1961: The Choir & the Peace Corps

Peace CorpsStan and I found an arrangement of Antonio Salieri’s “Concerto in C for Flute, Oboe and Orchestra,” in the library. An arrangement for two recorders and piano. Alternating checkouts of the score between us, and making creative use of renewal, we kept the score for months.

Dad had a recording of the concerto on some obscure foreign label. We only knew what the record was because someone had slapped a label saying so in English over a portion of the liner notes. I was stumbling through French at school, and knew a spoonful each of Welsh (from Grammer) and Dutch (largely obscenities, from a classmate).  But I knew enough to know that the liner notes weren’t in English, Dutch, French or Welsh.

But, using the score, Stan and I would play along with the record on our recorders.

Then we’d wordlessly sing the same parts and passages that we’d just played. It helped us with both harmony and counterpoint as we worked on the choral Easter pieces.

Aside from “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending,” a David Willcocks arrangement of an Easter anthem, with another great boy soprano descant, our only pieces were two excerpts from George Frederick Handel’s Coronation Anthems: ‘Upon My Right Hand’from “My Heart Is Indicting,” which our director had arranged for four-part boys chorus, and the ‘Alleluia’ from “Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened.” We’d be window dressing the rest of the time. It would still be a bit of a challenge, but quite a relief after our intense program the previous Christmas, and we were grateful for the respite.

Taking time he seemed to lack on my birthday, Dad and I, with Stan and Dr. Gupta, had our second fearsome foursome current events discussion a few weeks after President Kennedy announced the creation of the Peace Corps. The concept of “national service” being something other than military duty was novel, underscoring my perception of JFK as a visionary.

Dad grew silent as I wondered aloud what Uncle Roddy might have chosen to do, had the option been open to him.

Dad had never spoken of his own wartime experience, except to the extent it related to his meeting Mum. Usually playful and jocular, Uncle Roddy had grown darkly serious when I’d asked him about his time in Korea.

“God forbid y’should ever be called upon t’do it, Reggie,” he said, “but if y’are, say as y’hafta say, do as y’hafta do, run s’far as y’hafta run, but get the hell away!”

© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

Volume One of “The Bluebottle Boys” will be releaed shortly. Stay tuned for details.

Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall,” the first book of the series, is available from Amazon now. Check out my website at

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G. H. McCallum

G. H. McCallum is author of the Reggie Stone series, the first of which, Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall, was released on 12 December 2014; look for the second, The Bluebottle Boys, in late spring of 2016. He blogs principally on the 1960s, Victoriana and magic realism.