By Sarah Patey.
Long ago and far away – well, Cirencester 1998, in fact – I was a Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) conference newbie and rather overawed. Conference newbies these days may feel the same, but at least the name-labels are likely to look familiar, thanks to the SfEP forums. The faces too, unless the wearer uses a cartoon avatar. I’d met a few people at courses, but not many.
I made an effort to sit with different people at meals, and quickly noticed that every table seemed to have at least one other choral singer (you can tell my small talk is limited). When I next booked a conference (Cambridge 2002) I suggested via the new(ish) SfEPLine, the email precursor to the forums, that a group of us might sing something before the conference dinner. The response was encouraging, and the medium caused one participant to christen us The Linnets (Line – gerrit?). Rather ambitiously, I got hold of an eight-part arrangement of Flanders and Swann’s The Slow Train, and those present tell me they still have fond memories of it.
I didn’t make it to Birmingham in 2003, but have been to every conference since, and the Linnets have become a firm favourite. Once conference preparations are well under way, the call goes out to ask if anyone coming would like to join in. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our demographic produces more sopranos and, particularly, altos, than basses and, particularly, tenors. Usually there are around fifteen or twenty of us, and the music is sent out in advance, as we only have very limited time to practise. The conference director obligingly arranges a room, and those involved sacrifice precious
drinking socialising time for the two rehearsal spots – one for familiarisation and one for polishing. We’ve become less ambitious over the years in terms of complexity of music, but work hard to make the words clear. They are always worth it.
Most years since 2003, talented members have contributed entertaining lyrics on various aspects of our editorial life: stylesheets, SfEPline, our 20th anniversary, punctuation, deadlines, and so on, and of course the vagaries of Word. Musical arrangements have been provided sometimes in-house, and sometimes by friends and family who’ve been willing to have an arm twisted. Piano accompaniment, when needed, and conducting have also been in-house (well, by extension if you count spouses).
Breaking the pattern
In the dog days of 2006, a spoof poem ‘in the style of’ appeared on SfEPLine. The gauntlet was down, and from all quarters further contributions in all kinds of styles were sent in. We had clerihews, sonnets, haikus, new words to old songs, and so on. TS Eliot seemed to provide particular inspiration. It was a treat, as summed up (à la McGonagall) by one of our founder members:O Beautiful parody thread of the SfEP Line!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety working hours were taken away
On one Novembry day of 2006
Which will be remember’d for quite a few weeks.
In fact they were remembered for quite a few months, and seemed worth enjoying again. So in the Linnets spot in Brighton in 2007 we put on a poetry reading. Choosing which we’d have time for was not an easy task. We succumbed to music for the last item, The Twelve Days of the Schedule – no prizes for guessing the tune. It featured locked files, dangling clauses, misquotations, sexist pronouns, footnotes missing, fuzzy graphs…
Well, some might think so, but we’ve found over the years that there’s a lot of musical fun to be had on the subject. If there are any linguistic pedants with musical inclinations out there, perhaps you’ve just found your spiritual home?
(All names omitted to protect the innocent. You know who you are.)
If you’re heading to our conference at Royal Holloway this weekend and you’d like to sing with the Linnets, please contact Sarah Patey and let her know which part you sing (soprano, alto, tenor or bass). Please head your mail ‘Linnets 2014’.
Sarah Patey was educated in France, taking both International and French Baccalauréats, and subsequently studied languages in the UK. Initially a teacher of French and German, she joined the SfEP in 1995 to investigate editorial work and to benefit from SfEP’s excellent training courses and professional development. Now an advanced member of SfEP, she edits a variety of humanities subjects and educational material for teachers of French, German and English. Sarah’s website is: http://le-mot-juste.co.uk/
Proofread by SfEP associate Laura Morgan.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.