Friday was an exciting day in many ways, after the initial murderous rage caused by the non-arrival of my promised new oven had subsided a little. Bread and water it is until Monday, it seems, with maybe the occasional mince pie thrown in for good measure. I broke with recent habit and sat down to a decent stint of writing, getting slightly ahead with an arrangement for Christmas next year. Although it has yet to be officially confirmed, I expect it to go ahead, so those three kings from the Orient are being subjected to an O’Neill-style reworking. Expect camels.
In the evening I played for the Anton Bruckner Choir concert in London, at which they performed Sweet Was The Song, among others. It went down well among choir and audience, and was convincing enough to arouse the interest of a publisher who happened to be there. My organ solo for the concert took me rather by surprise, as I was unaware I was meant to be playing one, but, thankfully the venue was equipped with computer, internet access and printer, so we managed to download the music just in time and my fingers did not fail me, despite what might generously be termed a complete lack of practice.
Late in the evening I received news that Sweet Was The Song has been confirmed for its first performance in 2012, at All Saints, Margaret Street on the afternoon of 8th January. I also heard yesterday that it will not be performed at the carol service at Christ Church, Hampstead on Sunday, as A Sad Carol For These Distracted Tymes will receive its second outing of the season instead. I am quite pleased about this, rather than disappointed, as it seems right to remind people that I have written more than just the one piece of music.
Today – Saturday – I intend to take those three kings a little further on their journey. I am trying to approach the text afresh, as I would do in a song setting, and make it as faithful to the ideas behind the words as possible, while not being too obvious. Why, for example, should the ladies of the choir sing at the start, and, if they should not, where can they sing in order to maintain balance in the work? I think I have some decent ideas tucked away, but, as always with these kinds of things, those ideas will take some time to ferment. Given that Silent Night was almost literally an overnight job, fitting an accompaniment to an already written harmonisation, I am glad to be able to approach this piece afresh, with a deadline some twelve or so months away.
A friend of mine reckons that We Three Kings is one of the dullest carols out there, so I have the challenge of making the narrative come to life, while still keeping it accessible for a carol-style audience, and performable by an amateur choir. The three gifts, of course, represent the three-fold nature of Jesus, as explained in the final verse (“King and God and sacrifice”), but the rumpty-tumpty nature of the tune means that audiences tend to rush past this in the jaunt towards the Star of Wonder. If I can manage to send a couple of audience members away next Christmas with a slightly better understanding of what (I think) the carol is about, then I shall be pleased.
It is time to take a deep breath and dive in to the last rush of Christmas playing, a mixture of weddings, services and carols. It will all go to pay for the visit to the supermarket next week, and hopefully sustain me through the post-Christmas lull. This year, apart from reading, composing, playing some board games and generally relaxing, I intend to do very little at all, what people with normal lives call “having a holiday”.