Had a few days off from blogging, mainly because I was pretty busy last weekend, playing for the Occam Singers as they covered the services at Tewkesbury Abbey, and also because I only managed 15 minutes of editing work yesterday. I have put in a good hour this morning, however, and feel pretty ready to tackle the rest of the day. There are rumours of taking a motor boat out onto one of the lakes, so we shall see what happens and whether the emergency services have to be called.
I have nearly finished the editing work on the piece for the Parliament Choir, just one more fairly short movement to go, which I think I can get done tomorrow morning, at which point I’ll have to stop faffing around and decide what it is that I want to write next. From the look of my diary, I shall have quite a bit of time on my hands come September, so I could, just possibly, begin to tackle something rather large, and still have time to get any potential commissions done.
Talking of which, there were a few ever-so-slight hints dropped over the weekend of some writing in the offing in a couple of years time, for something fairly large, which would be good news. I am letting it be known that I intend to focus on writing, and also dropping my competition win casually into conversation every now and then, cough cough. The general consensus appears to be that (a) it’s well timed, and (b) it opens up some exciting new opportunities.
Some difficulties aside, the Occam Singers, if you’ll pardon the pun, really came on song over the weekend, performing, among other pieces, Stanford’s Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in A. This really is a fantastic work, beautifully crafted – as is pretty much all Stanford – and well above the standard of so much of the church fodder of his day. All those Stanford settings are part of the workaday repertoire of the jobbing Anglican choir, which is a double-edged sword, for they deserve without argument to be core works, but familiarity has perhaps lessened our appreciation of the high level of musicianship in the writing. Somebody said to me that, had Stanford had a German surname, his music would be much more highly regarded. I have written before that I believe his G major Mag & Nunc to be one of the most refined settings of these texts there is, and the A major, although at another end of the musical spectrum, is simply brilliant in design and execution. I also keep being drawn back to Beati Quorum Via, one of his three motets, a piece whose elegance and mellifluous nature serve only to disguise the brilliance of its delicate contrapuntal design and craft.
One of my music history students (a rather ambitious composer) once asked pointedly why on earth we had to talk about the music of dead writers. Given that it’s so much better than the music of so many living writers it baffles me that we don’t perform and talk about it more. The harmonic language may be dated, and there are elements of the Victorian, doubtless, but we don’t avoid performing Marlowe because his language is dated, do we? Were it not for church choirs, Stanford would hardly be known today, and that is hardly fair or just. Maybe it’s time, at last, for me to start exploring his quartets and symphonies, as a friend has long been exhorting me to do…