Pranks in Chapel

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alterblau
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Pranks in Chapel

Post by alterblau » Thu Oct 24, 2013 8:15 am

Following Geoffrey Cannon’s recent, excellent suggestion in the thread “Grace”, that the current topic be added, here’s a contribution.

One Grecian, of course sitting in the back row, never put any coins the Collection Bag, as it was passed from hand to hand. His technique was to make an appropriate gesture with the right hand, while lowering the bag with the left hand and then gently banging it on his knee, so that both hands were out of sight when the clinking noise was made. He then passed on the bag to his neighbour.

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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by postwarblue » Thu Oct 24, 2013 11:40 am

I often wondered how many Housey buttons ended up in the bags.
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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by michael scuffil » Thu Oct 24, 2013 12:21 pm

Chain got very angry about this. He used to quote Jesus, who said in the matter of giving alms that you should be so discreet as not to let your right hand know what your left hand was doing.
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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by sejintenej » Thu Oct 24, 2013 6:08 pm

Mentioned elsewhere; when CMES' proposed changes became known the pupils' opposition views were expressed in morning chapel. Apart from the choir every pupil remained silent for one verse of one hymn.
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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by geoffreycannon » Wed Nov 06, 2013 5:10 pm

Such positive waves! Beautiful! But so far I am reminded of Crocodile Dundee. You call those pranks... Here is a prank! Three pranks.

Any mistakes or omissions here, please correct.

In my day and I guess in those of others on this thread, my house Peele A was sat at the end of the chapel immediately under the preacher's pulpit, and opposite the organ, with the housemasters - the senior master then was Pop Beavan - on the other side of the chapel, above the boys I think of Maine B. This is relevant to our pranks. They all took place when the merry PA pranksters were top tablers or first year Grecians, and therefore sat high up, just in front of the masters of the opposite house.

Since I sense we on this thread are all also keen on the wider significance of this stuff, I suggest it all came about because Chapel was compulsory, because in term we had practically zero contact with the world outside the school, and also because the brand of C of E religion was low church and so awful boring. (Was there chapel every day as well as twice on Sundays, help me out someone please, can this be correct, plus the morning prayers and readings in the houses). So it was all a bit like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The pranks here are in order of organisation, simplest first.

Singing very loud. I can't recall anybody in or around my year who believed in God in any Christian sense, apart from Andrew Short in my year who become house captain and whose father was a vicar in Aspatria, Cumberland. Being conscientious fellows, an increasing number of us did not kneel for prayers, and when stood up for hymns were silent. Pop B obviously did not like this, and glowered at us, but never said anything, not to me anyway. A bunch of us then had a konspiratsia. Silence was even more boring and some of the hymns had rousing words and rollicking tunes. So we decided that our demo should take a different form. We joined in the singing - very, very loud. At first a lot of boys in our house sat in front of us turned round grinning, and some of the boys opposite grinned too, but the name of the game was to keep a straight face and act super-engaged. Pop B saw and heard all this of course, and we occasionally speculated on the possibility that his glass eye would pop out. The prank was that clearly we were doing something wrong, but it fell just short of something we could be disciplined for. I recall once saying to Pop B after the morning prayers in the house over which he presided, what jolly good tunes the hymns were. I sensed his eyes (or eye) rolling with the effort not to say something like 'I suppose you think you are so clever and trying to abuse religion and make a fool of me' - but that wasn't his style, and masters were wary of the boys' version of 'yes massa' slave-talk, which went something like 'gosh sir me sir no sir'.

Skipping a bar. This was a development of the above, involving more organisation. I will be indiscreet but after over a half a century there is I guess nobody alive who could deal out retribution. I was a chum of the leader of the choir, who had a divine tenor speaking and singing voice, and also was very good-looking - think Legolas and the Lord of the Rings elves in song, and - indiscreet bit - went on to be a shadow Minister as an MP. So unlike us, the masters never suspected him of anything. Heh heh. He was also an atheist and up for most things. OK. Here comes the prank. As above, at the beginning of our chosen good-length hymn, the bunch of us sang very very loud... and gradually sung a little more and more ahead of the immense music of the vast organ, so that a sort of dissonant vibration was set up. Then, at a discreet signal, our co-prankster the leader of the choir took his cue not from the organ but from us, jumped further ahead, and skipped a bar. Two things happened. First, the singing throughout Chapel, Brangwyn to Brangwyn, right to the front of the chapel were the headmaster presided, performed a kind of sound version of a Mexican wave. Second, which was our main aim, the organist lost his nerve and also skipped a bar. Nobody died, folks! Also, nothing was ever said, which to my mind was proof of a successful prank. Everybody knew that Something had Happened but nobody could work out what.

Sermon Cricket. I'm sure I have mentioned this already on some other thread of this inspiring site, but here goes. I noticed recently that Gordon van Praagh also played sermon cricket. Not with us though. It can be played solo but it is much better as a team game. The inspiration came from a PG Wodehouse story in a book that was in our house library. You all may know the basic rules. Certain features of a sermon count as 'out', bowled, LBW, caught, hit wicket, whatever. Other features count as runs, a single, 2 or 3, a boundary or 6. Us pranksters first of all devised the rules, which we felt should give realistic results, like say 185 for 7 or 230 all out per half-hour sermon (was that their length). Then using the calendars issued to all boys at the beginning of term, we marked all the preachers and drew lots. I drew the preacher on Trinity Sunday, which was well into the summer term. We put our money into the kitty, and during the sermon we all kept scores in concealed notebooks and compared scores afterwards. This was fun. But my preacher was something else, because in our rules, god was 2, the son or Jesus or Christ was a boundary, and the Holy Ghost or Spirit was into the pavilion as 6. After 10 minutes my preacher was doing a Bradman, on something like 452 to 2. The other thing though, is that he was one of those reverends who believed they are great jokesmiths and that God is a lot of fun too, as well as all that smiting. So leaning over the pulpit imediately down on us, he beamed with joy and then with increasing confusion, because we were laughing for sure, doubled up, heaving with suppressed bellows of glee - but at his score, not his jokes, and also at him in his puzzlement wondering whether or not it was his jokes we were finding so funny. At the end his score was something like 666 for 4, and at the end of term the merry band paid out and I collected the kitty. This outcome of what we devised more as a secret pastime than a prank, was cruel, but making Revs miserable was also part of our mission.

Those were three Chapel pranks. One house prayers prank was this. As said, the housemaster presided, and the monitors in turn gave a reading of their choice. I suppose the expectation was the NT, but some of us chose from the OT, and not the poxy revised version, but the Bible Designed to be Read as Literature, cross-checked with the Real Thing. The prank, was to match some suitably lurid passage from one of the more obscure and bloodthirsty prophets, to current events, My choice, at the time of the Peter Rachman Notting Hill racketeering, was a passage declaiming that evil landlords would be smitten yea to the third generation, and their wives and children and oxen and sheep and goats, etc. 'Woe to the bl**dy city! It is all full of lies and robbery!'. I hear it all now (Nahum 3, 1). Afterwards I said to Pop B how wonderful it is that the Bible speaks to us now about every human situation. (Just as a preacher might, except that the CH lot who sermonised in Chapel. went easy with Micah the Morasthite, Nahum the Elkoshite, Zephaniah son of Cushi, and that lot). Pop B could have said that he would prefer that we stuck to the New Testament, but maybe a little voice told him that ths includes a lot of acrid stuff from Paul - and the Apocalypse. So I rthink he must have said mm.

Corps pranks are another thread...

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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by LongGone » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:56 pm

geoffreycannon wrote: (Was there chapel every day as well as twice on Sundays, help me out someone please, can this be correct, plus the morning prayers and readings in the houses). S.
Certainly during my time 54-61. I always figured that I had done 56 years worth of weekly attendance, and would be exempt from going to church until I was 74.

The only prank I remember was very trite, singing alternate words to some of the hymns: the bawdier the better. Though in honesty we were pretty unsophisticated when it came to any innuendo.
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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by sejintenej » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:30 pm

I'm laughing my head off, Geoffrey

Of course there are 'alternative' words, especially to Christmas carols, which did get sung
“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love ...”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 167AD

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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by Fitzsadou » Thu Nov 07, 2013 5:46 am

Of course there are 'alternative' words, especially to Christmas carols, which did get sung
I only remember one ‘alternative’ Christmas carol, and it was very much a CH creation. ‘Noel, Noel, …’ was sung as, “No ale, no beer, all stout sold out. Born was Fred H* with his tongue hanging out”. I don’t recall any more words. However Korks never allowed the popular carols (‘Good King Wenceslas’, etc, etc) to be sung at the Carol Service, so this alternative probably was not sung in Chapel.
*Francis Haslehust, an alcoholic housemaster of Th A
Was there chapel every day as well as twice on Sundays, help me out someone please, can this be correct, plus the morning prayers and readings in the houses?
As for Chapel in the 50s it was indeed a daily morning occurrence, with two services on Sunday. However the Saturday service was a short prayer, followed by Chapel Practice, conducted by Korks, who often sang items to demonstrate how he wanted the hymns/psalms to be sung/chanted on the following Sunday. The headmaster Flecker liked to be present and sometimes would make a similar (singing) point too, always in a friendly fashion for he got on well with Korks. Flecker had a good voice and I suspect he was very happy to demonstrate this in public.

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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by Kit Bartlett » Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:49 am

The alternative version of"While Shepherds watched their flocks by night" was sung once in Chapel which moved the then Chaplain Rev, C,A.C. Hann to issue a rebuke the next day to the School. On another occasion in a sermon he referred to the fact that he had heard language in the school which was worse than that he had heard on the lower decks in the Navy where he had served as a Naval Chaplain.

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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by geoffreycannon » Thu Nov 07, 2013 4:45 pm

All these positive waves! Beautiful! *

Is most of stuff like this, peculiar to times long gone by. Did it all spring from a turbid pool of represssion and anarchy bubbling up in the 1960s. Or are there planty of such stories before and since. It would be good to know.

There are I suggest differences between demos, travesties, games, and pranks.

An example of a demo is that cited when the CH boys (or some of them I suppose) refused to sing a hymn because of a Seaman Reform . The silence -was it heard - was not meant to be witty or funny. Another example would be one or more boys standing up during a visiting preacher's sermon and denouncing his more preposterous or malignant conceits. Some of us talked about this, but never came close to doing the deed, which surely would have meant being thrown out of the school.

A travesty is the excellent tradition of singing about such as sock-washing rather than flock-watching. Was this originally a Lever Brothers jingle, as per 'a bar of Sunlight soap came down, and they began to scrub'. On reflection, perhaps reading bloodthirsty ravings of the lesser OT prophets in house prayers rather than bits where Jesus is being holy in a comfortable sort of way, is more a travesty than a prank.

Sermon cricket is a game, in the 'you are playing games with me' (or religion, or the customs of this place, or what is expected of you, blah blah) sense. When we devised it, we did not intend a prank, but rather to keep ourselves diverted, the spice being that what we were doing was under the table (and housey coat) in a context where we and everybody else could not move. Perhaps it was prank-ish, because we expected others to get a sense that we were up to something. The florid prank aspect was responding to the visiting preacher's confusion and redoubling and trebling our laughter, which was not part of the plan.

A prank, I maintain, involves organisation. It is a type of practical joke. Thinking about it now, perhaps the one example was the choral Mexican Wave caper. As well as needing to be witty, a prank needs to be disconcerting, I suggest, and perhaps it is characteristic of the best ones that they remain mysterious and even pass into legend.

I also feel that the best pranks are elegant. For instance - to move to Corp pranks - the most exact one we devised ('we' here including my Peele A comrade Geoffrey Griffin) was this. (If I have got east and west the wrong way round, please correct). We observed that orders from the senior Colour Sergeants (boys) to assemble were posted in the cloisters, on pinboards protected with glass frames and locked, except that one never was locked. Aha! So the orders of the day were (say) that on day X and hour and minute Y, A and B company assembled - no not below a bushy-topped tree, but in the East Cloisters, and C and D company in the West Cloisters. Both notices were typed. We had typewriters too... So Geoffrey removed the unlocked notice from the West Cloisters (those on the Chapel side) and we retyped it in exactly the same words, style, layout, except that we substituted 'East' for 'West'. We burned the old notice and pinned up the new one. Just before the appointed hour we slunk into the upper Science block facing, above the West cloisters, and watched the ensuing chaos and recriminations with joy in our hearts. So if Lord Simon of Highbury, CSO Dave Simon as was, is reading this, it wasn't your typo. We dunnit. Which reminds me, anybody up for a new thread on Corp pranks...

* qv Oddball as played by Donald Sutherland, 'Kelly's Heroes'. If you have not experienced it a great treat is in store

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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by AKAP » Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:00 pm

Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860 s2

Penalty for making a disturbance in churches, chapels, churchyards etc
Any person who shall be guilty of riotous, violent, or indecent behaviour in England in any cathedral church, parish or district church, or chapel of the Church of England, or in any chapel of any religious denomination, or in England in any place of religious worship duly certified under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855, 18 & 19 Vict c 81, whether during the celebration of Divine service, or at any other time, or in any churchyard, or burial-ground, or who shall molest, let, disturb, vex, or trouble, or by any other unlawful means disquiet or misuse any preacher duly authorised to preach therein, or any clergyman in Holy Orders ministering or celebrating any sacrament or any Divine service, rite, or office in any cathedral church or chapel, churchyard, or burial ground shall on conviction thereof before two justices of the peace, be liable to a penalty of not more than level 1 on the standard scale, or may, if the justices before whom he shall be convicted think fit, instead of being subjected to any pecuniary penalty be committed to prison for any time not exceeding two months.


Might have made an interesting court case.

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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by sejintenej » Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:35 pm

AKAP wrote:Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860 s2

Penalty for making a disturbance in churches, chapels, churchyards etc
Any person who shall be guilty of riotous, violent, or indecent behaviour in England in any cathedral church, parish or district church, or chapel of the Church of England, or in any chapel of any religious denomination, or in England in any place of religious worship duly certified under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855, 18 & 19 Vict c 81, whether during the celebration of Divine service, or at any other time, or in any churchyard, or burial-ground, or who shall molest, let, disturb, vex, or trouble, or by any other unlawful means disquiet or misuse any preacher duly authorised to preach therein, or any clergyman in Holy Orders ministering or celebrating any sacrament or any Divine service, rite, or office in any cathedral church or chapel, churchyard, or burial ground shall on conviction thereof before two justices of the peace, be liable to a penalty of not more than level 1 on the standard scale, or may, if the justices before whom he shall be convicted think fit, instead of being subjected to any pecuniary penalty be committed to prison for any time not exceeding two months.
Might have made an interesting court case.
? Statute of Limitations? some, at least, of us are old fogeys for whom 2 months without our normal prescribed medicines would be a death sentence

In the event that we should actually be found "not guilty, m'lud" (or as the law says "to be of good behaviour or 'touz qi sont de bone faim') as many of the declarations suggest then the judge MUST, by law, bind you over. (Justices of the Peace Act 1361 and still in force) Crazy law so, if you have been up before the beak and acquitted then sue the judge for breach of the law.

Another interesting court case and The Mail might pay for your stories of two cases.

(BTW - I am not into bondage so leave me out of it!)
“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love ...”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 167AD

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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by viejoazul » Fri Nov 08, 2013 10:50 am

geoffreycannon wrote:
There are I suggest differences between demos, travesties, games, and pranks.
Are japes included here? After all CH is a public school.

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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by geoffreycannon » Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:08 am

'Jape' and 'prank' feel like the same and, as mentioned, 'practical joke' feels like being much the same also.

I guess the splendid law quoted above was in response to affray, which would include heckling of the type us merry pranksters finked out of, and did not refer only to discomfitures such as preachers being pelted with cowpats, or being dragged out of church and chopped into their constituent bodily parts, which may have been what first prompted the law. There again I guess that the stuff and nonsense about solemn silent respect for preachers was in response to Ranters, Shakers, Quakers and the like, and indeed more moderate Protestants, getting up in church services at the time of the first surges of democracy in England and giving preachers a hard time for speaking in Latin, or protecting the interests of the established order, and such-like. A couple of months in such a tradition would be a badge of honour, but I am not about to apply for extradition!

This helps me to realise that part of the point of CH pranks was to push to the limits over which if caught you would be liable to get slung out. That was part of the craik. Two variables were (a) keeping the core aspect of the more organised pranks a secret and (b) a change of headmaster or, at local level, whether or not your housemaster had a sense of humour. Looking back, I feel that Pop B, my housemaster at Peele A, was a decent and caring man who was much put-upon, but he was not, how to put this, a laughing cavalier.

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Re: Pranks in Chapel

Post by AKAP » Sun Nov 10, 2013 12:13 pm

I must admit my favourite bit of the law is
"vex, or trouble, or by any other unlawful means disquiet or misuse any preacher"
It conjures up wonderful images of vexed and disquieted preachers.

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