in the mine, our yellow bird sang,
Her notes high and true all day,
And then one morn her pretty song stopped,
And we knew it was time to pray."
Chorus was hard at work, thought Owen Llewellyn, listening with
a smile. The nine burly Welshmen, trying not to bother the other
passengers on the L.A.-Boston flight, were singing in whispers so
soft that the coal miners' song sounded as if it were being sung
by angels. The lads were always ready to break into song and, when
the choir members next to him in Row 15 began, the ones in Rows
14 and 16 quickly leaned over the seat backs and joined in.
Fifteen concerts in a dozen U.S. cities over 18 days required a
lot of flying, which was how the Whisper Chorus developed. Self-entertaining
and almost inaudible from 12 feet away, the whispered songs helped
shorten every flight, and, as one of the younger men observed, "it
attracts the ladies better than anything except a pup." Right
now, a slender woman with short red hair was standing in the aisle
next to Owen's seat, leaning in to hear the song while trying to
stay out of the way of the flight attendants and other passengers.
Owen stood up and, telling the woman that he was going to stretch
his legs for a while, offered his seat. She took it with a word
of thanks, barely taking her eyes off Davy, the broad-shouldered
tenor from Glyncorrwg who joined the 30-member Cardiff Men's Choir
just four months ago.
Owen moved down the aisle, aware that half a life ago he had been
one of the energetic lads complaining that the choir's annual U.S.
tour was too short. Now he was in his mid-50s, and every trip seemed
at least a week too long. Age wasn't the problem, it was simpler
than that. The truth was that he missed his wife.
Every day at their jeweler's shop, it was "Mr. Llewellyn"
and "Mrs. Llewellyn," their tone always formal, both in
front of the staff and alone. Each evening, during the drive home,
they held hands as they discussed the day's work. It is odd how
you get used to the feel of someone, Owen thought as he slipped
into an empty aisle seat in Row 22.
Perhaps a few more U.S. tours and he'd tell the choirmaster that
it was time to give his spot to someone else. He could invent a
reason or perhaps just say that business was up at the shop - which
was always true - and he couldn't afford to be away for so long.
Owen closed his eyes, hoping for sleep, but it wouldn't come. They'd
boarded the plane at 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, and his internal
clock was supplying him with middle-of-the-day energy and alertness.
"I'm going home," said a woman's voice to his left.
Owen opened his eyes and saw, across the aisle and next to the window,
a woman in her 70s. Apparently, the man in Seat B had asked the
usual traveler's question.
"Back to Snowdon, Vermont," she said, with a smile that
made all the delicate lines in her face fall into place. Owen noticed
that the woman was dressed with great style, her black suit was
tailored and the double string of pearls served to emphasize the
white purity of her hair. Here, he thought, was a woman who had
been beautiful at every age.
"And what's it like in Snowdon, Vermont?" asked the man
in Seat B, who was dressed in a rougher manner, wearing corduroy
trousers, a flannel shirt, and scuffed outdoorsman's boots. He had
a full head of gray hair, intelligent eyes, and seemed robustly
Owen couldn't guess the man's age or background. The weathered complexion
suggested someone who'd spent much of his life outdoors. Owen wondered
what an American rancher would look like, or if there were even
"Would you really like to hear about my town?" the woman
"I really would," said the man in the seat next to her.
"Then I'll tell you." She drew a deep breath to begin,
then stopped. "I'm sorry, my name is Abigail Clark."
"I'm Richard Kendall."
"It's nice to meet you, Richard.
(End of excerpt)