Dear Reader: I'm rubbish at karaoke + sacked as a judge!

The cover of the classic American Pie single and album by Don McLean.
The cover of the classic American Pie single and album by Don McLean.

A regular column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

I was once forced by work colleagues to take part in a karaoke session at a bar called Yhe New Inn at the top of Otley Road in Harrogate (now So! bar)

I quickly came to regret deciding to attempt the never-ending verses of American Pie, Don McLean's iconic 1970s hit about the death of Buddy Holly and "the day the music died."

Entirely sober at the time and lacking any Dutch courage, all I can say is that it did that night!

But part of the appeal of ‘rock n roll’ is its willingness to do the wrong thing.

This concept even applied occasionally to the very-well organised Harrogate’s AMP Awards, the best battle of the bands competition I’ve ever been involved with as a judge.

Sadly, the plug was pulled on this brilliantly-organised annual event for schools across North and West Yorkshire earlier this year, the victim of its own ever-expanding success and the financial risks that can create.

The AMPs did do a huge amount to encourage youngsters’ business and musical acumen and I credit it with raising the whole standard of the local music scene.

My favourite AMPs happening, however, was a rare example of something going wrong.

Given the usual ten-minute slot to shine in, the lead singer of one young band opted to spend five of those precious minutes not on impressing the 800-strong audience in the Royal Hall in Harrogate with another song but on delivering a state-of-the-nation rant about anything that came into his teeage head.

His chance of winning had gone but, at that moment, rock n roll was alive and well.

Speaking in public is not the same thing as being a public speaker so I was taken by surprise when I was introduced as the “speaker” this week at Knaresborough Rotary Club.

But I really enjoyed meeting Knaresborough Rotary Club amid the traditional grandeur of Nidd Hall country hotel on Monday night.

Flanked by the club president, my talk seemed to go down okay - despite my over-running and turning my nose up, politely, to the main course which did create a minor hoo-ha.

But my strongest thought as I tried to find where I’d parked my car in the dark afterwards was that nothing I said was half as important as the work the Knaresborough Rotary Club does year-in, year-out for the good of the community.

I’ve been happy to give talks on local journalism for a long time now, but, as speakers go, I’m probably more Lucky Jim than Tony Blair.

Back in the 90s I was asked for a time to be a judge at the annual speaking contest of the Harrogate and District Young Farmers.

The last time I did it, my fellow judge turned to me, after the final ruddy-faced youngster had finished, to whisper that too many of the speakers had been reading from prepared notes.

It was true and I had to agree so said so in a diplomatic way when summing up in front of organisers, young farmers and some of their parents.

Seconds later, my fellow judge stood up, congratulated the contestants for being so good and then sat down again.

A fortnight later I learnt it had been decided my role in this event had come to an end.

The judge had become the judged.