A busy, busy day yesterday, up before 7 for the first time in my new life (I think), and out of the house pretty much before it was light. I was playing for a rehearsal in the morning, tutoring in the afternoon and then back to the morning’s venue to play for a carol service, the second of the season thus far. There is extraordinary value to be had in combining young children and Christmas carols, their ability to become totally entranced by something else while still singing a carol a testament to their ability to multitask. It is also highly amusing.

Talking of being entranced, I spent an idle hour in the British Museum in the afternoon, gawping at the Rosetta stone and completely overawed by some of the Assyrian exhibits. I read that there may be plans afoot to cut funding to museums, which in turn means that they might have to start charging for entrance again, which would be a real shame. I’m proud that at least part of my tax money allows such extraordinary treasures to be open both to those who live here and those who visit, and believe that free culture, rather than being the preserve of a privileged elite, has the power to inspire and enthrall. It can also remind us that those Egyptians and Assyrians certainly built things to last, similarly that, for all our endeavour and self-importance, nothing lasts forever.

Afterwards I retreated to the church vestry at St. Mary Abbots, having made a brief stop to touch board games near Leicester Square, and dealt with some interesting emails, one in particular which referred to a compositional opportunity of which I intend to take advantage. More anon. On my way to my next appointment I picked up a copy of the Evening Standard, which I usually never touch, but I am glad I did yesterday evening. If you are not an inhabitant of London you may be blissfully unaware of the plague of free papers which litter the city. We have manage to sink The London Paper and London Lite, but it is still nigh on impossible to walk from A to B at 5 in the evening without having an arm thrust into your path, “offering” you a paper. My favourite exchange with one of these people went as follows:


No, thank you.”

Don’t blame you, mate. It’s rubbish.”

Now, most choirs would be able to cobble together some kind of Twelve Days Of Christmas type publicity given half a chance. Maybe a partridge and pear tree combo, or five gold rings, even twelve drummers drumming. Surely, however, there is only one choir on the planet which can muster ten lords a-leaping, namely the Parliament Choir. Behold, on page 40 of yesterday’s Standard, aforementioned lords in mid-air! I chuckle more and more as I think about this photo, mainly when I imagine the possible aftermath, ten noble lords scattered like strewn skittles, kneecaps popped and bones fractured. I am glad to report, however, that they are all in fine fettle, and are indeed as jolly and fun-loving as they appear in the photo. You see, you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the papers. The online version has the photo and some blurb about the choir. Have a giggle here – www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-24016713-ten-lords-a-leaping-in-westminster.do

As an added bonus, there was a two-page interview with one of my heroes near the back of the paper, Alex Zanardi (see my entry of 7th November for more), putting my own bad news of the day (oven broken, needs replacing) into stark perspective. I am in the middle of rereading his autobiography at the moment, and still cannot quite believe the resilience and tenacity of the man. From an early age he seems to have denied that anything was impossible and combined it with an infectious sense of humour and fun. Find his article on the Standard’s website if you are so inclined. A wiser man than I once said that he always checked the back pages of newspapers first because that was where achievement was to be found. The front merely detailed failings. Yesterday’s Standard was eloquent proof of that.

I even managed to squeeze in some composition yesterday, forging ahead with melodic strands for my new piece. I feel quite enthusiastic about this work, even though it is still very young, and that enthusiasm is usually a good sign, for it tends to mean that the work will come easily. With a really good following wind I might even be able to get it finished in time to enter it for a competition, but I think that unlikely, and I would prefer to let the work develop at its own pace.

As I worked on it this afternoon it felt has though some cogs had slipped into place in my mind, that some of the technical areas with which I have been struggling of late have been properly assimilated, and that my recent impasse and time spent away from the coal face may have been due to things working themselves out in my mind. The following may sound very arty farty, or even airy fairy, but I have found very often that a leap forward to the next level comes after the combination of banging one’s head against a brick wall followed by a break. I have seen it with my instrumental students as well, that the brain needs time to process information, to (as I like to tell my pupils) “commit skill to instinct”. Personally I cannot say what has happened, or even whether it has actually happened, I just have the feeling that something has happened, and, whether that is the case or not, that feeling will translate into extra confidence, which cannot be a bad thing.

Today is my day off, after a busy week, and with some frenetic days coming up. I plan to spend it writing and doing creative things, as well as trying to sort out my oven, and am relishing the thought of getting some manuscript paper covered with notes. It is important to me that each piece represents some kind of step forwards, and I can feel already that I have new ideas I would like to try. As for my old pieces, they will have a good month – next week will mark the beginning of the Sweet Was The Song onslaught, with three performances on consecutive days, plus another two carols on the Wednesday as well. I am going to sit back and enjoy this ride. And hand out as many business cards as I can, of course!