If you are ever up for the dawn it can be a beautiful experience. Not, for example, when you are heading in to town for a day’s piano teaching in the pouring rain, crammed into a tram full of overheated school children, or when you are driving somewhere in the depths of winter for an absurdly early service, but maybe when you have dropped somebody off at the airport in Sardinia and decided to sit on the rocks and look out east over the sea while the town around you wakes up. That remains one of my favourite memories, and now I have another one to add to it, for at 5 this morning my lovely drug-dealing pitbull-owning party-throwing bicycle-stealing neighbours were raided by the police yet again. I nearly went out and offered the boys in blue a cup of tea and a pat on the back, but instead I bemoaned the lack of popcorn in the house and sat by my bedroom window listening to the goings on and – later – watching them scour the garden for something that was probably not potatoes. I heard yesterday that my neighbours form part of some gang responsible for all sorts of criminal nastiness (and I’m not even going to write ‘allegedly’ here, for I have heard things through the wall), so, despite my tiredness, I nearly skipped around my bedroom this morning. If they are not gone by the end of the year I will be very disappointed, although the raids, this being the third, provide occasional entertainment, I must say.
All this cheered me up no end after a dismal opening to the day yesterday. The fumes from painting work in the house meant that I had to sleep with the windows open, but a combination of foxes, passers by, cars and (of course) my neighbours meant that I slept very badly, and still felt unwell in the morning, and the house was further disrupted during the day, as was my timetable. I edited, revised the website and did a little composing, but was tired, under the weather and slightly irascible, although worn down would be a better description. In the end it was almost a relief to get out of the house and head to the rehearsal for the Parliament Choir concert. Through The Fair was given a single run through again, due to the complexity of one of the other pieces, but – thankfully – held together and worked well, and people seemed to like it. One person in particular became very deep and meaningful about the work in the post-concert do, even comparing the piece to Eliot’s poetry in the way it could mean different things to different people. Frankly, I think that comparing Through The Fair to The Waste Land is way over the top, but I’m happy to take compliments where I can get them, and to be compared to Eliot is high praise indeed. As happens at these dos, especially after a couple of glasses of wine, I became all animated and intent about my writing, boring people with my points of view and pontificating about the ills of modern composers, excluding me, of course.
The day certainly picked up, as you have just read, but little did I know that it would peak at 5 this morning. Today is going to be a day off from work, so I shall be email text and call free all day, but maybe pop in a little writing (not work, in my book). The plan is to do something worthwhile with the day which is not necessarily musical, but may involve lunch and an exhibition. When my better half lived apart from me my time spent at hers was work-free, but now that she is here I tend to spend most days dealing with messages and missives and can be very bad at partitioning free time, although not as bad as one person I know who is currently on their second month without a day off. I nag said person constantly about this, although I know that they intend to tackle the issue sooner rather than later.
Through The Fair now lives, and I take some pride in the fact that, from provision of the scores weeks and weeks ago to the performance yesterday, not a single note needed to be changed. Composition is not just about writing music, but encompasses all other kinds of things as well. I read a book recently about an entirely different field in which the author said that he sought small edges in areas other people had not considered. Those 1% improvements do not seem worth the effort to most other people, he wrote, but they soon add up and compound over time. Cover all the bases and you have outstripped the opposition already; develop your skills alongside this and you can be invincible.
My next performance will be Missa Seria at St. George’s, Southwark on 2nd November, but I have already written enough for today and can talk about that piece at a later date. Despite being tonal and rather traditional Through The Fair is still one of my pieces and I’m rather happy with it and its reception although, on the tube home yesterday, it occurred to me that it could perhaps have done with just the one tweak. It also represents the first fruit of my position as Composer in Residence with the Parliament Choir, a post I am still genuinely thrilled to hold. Whatever the language and whatever the style, a composer’s, nay, an artist’s voice should be strong and individual enough to come through. Rather like a policeman’s knocking on a door at 5 in the morning, perhaps.
Enjoy the day, everybody, and my thanks if you were part of yesterday’s concert for all the effort put in.