Over the weekend I have done a little more work on We Three Kings, but I am still playing around with harmonies and chord sequences and letting ideas for various textures and orchestrations settle in my head, so what notes I have on paper are still at a very rough stage and prone to change. I also spent the last few hours of Sunday trying to fend off a nasty cold which I could feel announcing itself in the usual way. For once I turned down an opportunity to tuck into mince pies and other festive paraphernalia, opting instead to return home and look after myself. This morning, Monday, it does appear that my efforts have had some effect, for although I am sniffy and a little under the weather, the onslaught I had expected has not materialised.

In years past I would be assaulted by a cold the moment I stopped work, usually Boxing Day, which would make for a rather miserable break, feeling under the weather only to recover in time to go back to work. This year, however, I have broken the back of most of the festive work and have only one or two engagements left before I can sit back and relax and maybe even get some shopping done.

Today is oven day, fingers crossed, and, after a missed appointment on Saturday and threats of violence (the latter in my head only, alas), my formerly utterly reliable builder finally showed his face on Sunday, so now the people who walked in books have seen a great multitude of shelves. It’s good to see what the new flooring looks like.

I was in Hampstead yesterday, playing at Christ Church morn and eve, the second service featuring A Sad Carol For These Distracted Tymes, which was sensitively performed and sounded, well, sad. I have been very fortunate with my performances this year, and have been lucky to have performers and directors find my music who are genuinely concerned with articulating what they see on the page. That is not to say that this has never been the case in the past, but I have been subject to some shockers, one of which sent me into a real tailspin a few years back about the whole notion of being a composer at all, so looking forward comfortably to good performances is a real luxury.

Cantores Salicium also performed Sweet Was The Song up in Yorkshire at their carol service yesterday, making it another day with multiple performances of O’Neill on the radar. Tomorrow morning, of course, Radio 3 will broadcast Sweet, as performed by the BBC Singers, and on Thursday it will get its last ‘live’ outing of the year at the 9 Lessons and Carols at St. Mary Abbots. Whether one likes this piece or loathes it, I think it is fair to say that it has done well this year, and I already have plans to market it with a little more gusto next year. It is hard to believe that, but for a small moment of reckless ego, I would not have sent it out at all.

The nature of the musical beast usually means that, come the last Sunday before Christmas, most carol services are done, and the fact that Christmas Day this year falls on a Sunday brings with it an unusually long period of relative calm, both before and after the day itself. Between now and the renewal of genuine hostilities in the New Year I have only a smattering of work to keep things ticking over, but the other side of the coin, of course, is that I will have much time in which to compose. I do need to get back into the habit, though, and there is no time like the present. It is time to head off to the Orient again.

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