It is Saturday morning and I have spent about an hour and a half working so far. I managed a stint of writing yesterday, although to be more exact it was really admin, putting my latest competition entry in order ready to be fired off on Monday morning. Balancing this out I discovered this morning that my last entry was unsuccessful. It would be lovely to receive an email to be informed of this, rather than have to search the web for the appropriate results, but we live in an age where unsuccessful job applicants simply aren’t told they are unsuccessful. It seems a little impolite to me, but there we go.
Anyway, as I’ve often thought and occasionally been told, if the horse throws you off, you simply get back on, so I’ll have another competition entry sitting in somebody’s inbox come Tuesday morning, and another to follow soon after. This latter piece, the orchestral work, is what I have been spending my time on this morning, revisiting the harmony, tightening it and carrying those ideas over into the rest of the piece. It is fascinating to be working in this way, as I’ll often rewrite a section, listen to it and feel that something is amiss. What intrigues me is finding out exactly why something is amiss, and I’m getting a keener sense day by day of what is wrong and, more importantly, why it is wrong, all of which will add up to a stronger technique in the end, I hope.
There are still some large gaps in the orchestral piece, and I strongly suspect that it will suffer the fate of many other of my works (competition rejection, cast away into some deeply hidden folder on my computer), but it will nevertheless go to inform the next piece and so on from there, enabling me to stand a little higher and see a little further, as it were. At moments I even felt quite excited this morning as I had the occasional ‘Ah’ moment when I realised just why a certain bar felt too ‘easy’.
Yesterday I sent off a few more scores for perusal, and a school for which I played the other day seems likely to perform the unison voices version of Sweet Was The Song at their carol service. I am gradually closing in on a coherent plan for my publicity blitz, but I do wonder whether it might be wise to perform an ever so slight detour and aim for the Christmas market instead, especially given that it is nearly October. Alongside Sweet I have another carol which seems to be well liked by audiences, and carol services tend to pull in larger numbers than Evensongs in general. I wonder. It would be nice to think that my carols might begin to go out into the world this year. They have threatened to fly the nest in the past, so maybe it’s time to tip them out. London first, I think.
I went to see the St. Matthew Passion at the National Theatre last night, directed by Jonathan Miller and performed by Southbank Sinfonia and singers from the Guildhall conducted by Paul Goodwin. The choir was beautifully crisp, especially considering that they are students, and the orchestra played beautifully. These are the same players who were out in Anghiari in the summer, and it’s a warm feeling to have a personal bond with them, to see a certain oboist, for example, playing so beautifully and have memories of him improvising on an accordion outside an Italian bar at two in the morning, or a flautist with whom I performed some Vivaldi, or a violinist who played Bach so brilliantly at the Cadogan Hall back in April. This is the first year I have felt really involved with SBS – I’m not officially part of the organisation, but work very closely with Simon Over, their Music Director. Simon is a generous person, a good friend and a hugely supportive colleague, as well as being a genuinely first rate musician, and it is good to see his young charges taking the first steps on what will hopefully be successful careers. This version of SBS disbands very soon, although they will be playing my Through The Fair before that happens. As I remember from my time teaching in schools, there is always a certain sadness when the new academic year arrives, when people you have seen develop head off to have their go at the world.
Coming back to Bach, though, the Passion is worth going to see, despite what sounded ominously like some quasi-improvised consecutive octaves in the final chorus. The staging takes a while to take off, coming into its own in the second half, but there are some genuinely beautiful moments, Peter’s betrayal, especially. For me, though, however moving the narrative, it all come back to one thing, and that is Bach’s untouchable superhuman genius. For all that one may like Mozart or Beethoven or any other of the very great composers, nobody is greater than Johann Sebastian, and this piece is one of those which makes any counter argument look simply ridiculous. That he wrote such music, completely and utterly uncompromising in its expression and technique when he knew he was going to have to go through hell and high water to get it performed (and probably badly at that) is one of the great miracles of music and art, but he was consumed by higher things. The maverick and lamented Douglas Adams said that Johann Sebastian Bach was, quite simply, the greatest genius who ever lived. He may well have been right.