It has been a really positive week for my music, with many good things happening on different fronts, but it is impossible to begin this entry without mentioning the terrible news of last Friday, the killing of Sir David Amess. We had a full day of work on the Bach Mass in b minor booked for the following day with Parliament Choir and, naturally, there were people present who knew Sir David personally as well as those for whom Friday afternoon brought back memories of Jo Cox. After a little time at the start of the day to reflect and remember, we dived into the Bach, and it was proof, yet again, of the consolatory power of music. A few years ago I was commissioned to write a carol in memory of Jo, of course, and remain very proud of that work and especially the text, taken from a sermon by John Donne, and I spent a great deal of time thinking about that over the weekend.
On a purely musical level the week was hugely encouraging. I was back in touch with a former colleague from my time at St. George’s, a trumpeter, and there is the possibility that he might record the piece that I wrote for him, Achias The Hero. I was also contacted on Friday morning by somebody who knows my music well and who wanted to discuss a large commission, and by Saturday evening we had agreed on ideas for not one but two pieces, a short choral work and a piece for orchestra. Suddenly I felt like a composer again.
The most positive moment of the week happened at lunchtime on Saturday, though, as I listened to Simon Over playing the piano during the break in our Parliament Choir study day. He was practising something that I could not stop listening to, music that intrigued and depressed me, because it sounded exactly like the music I would want to write if I had more fluency and imagination in my composing. I went off, grabbed a sandwich, came back and it was floating around again so my curiosity got the better of me and I went to find out what it was.
It turned out to be by me, which was a massively heartening surprise, as it turns out that on occasion I actually do write the music that I wish I could write. Best of all, the piece – the Missa Clemens, which I wrote in April last year – was being rehearsed because Sunday morning was to be its (delayed, as they all have been) first performance. I positively skipped through Saturday evening.
When I began my sabbatical the aim was to be a full time composer as much as possible by the time I went back to work, but the pandemic put a huge dampener on those thoughts, and I really had thought that it was all over bar the shouting, yet here we are and I am actually beginning to feel like a proper composer again, with performances, commissions and the like. Professionally it feels as though the colour is seeping back in, that the light is starting to beat out the darkness. We need to embrace the good stuff.