Half a loaf may be better than none, but an unfitted oven is pretty much useless. It is a long and pointless story, but I might, just might, have the thing fitted and working in time to stuff the Christmas turkey. Credit where credit is due, however – Orange delivered me a new mobile phone within 24 hours of my ordering it, which is downright impressive. It is pretty swish too, so much so that I can barely figure out how to use it, and I still await any news of my old one. If you are in the habit of sending me texts on a regular or semi-regular basis, please don’t be offended if I have to ask you who you are until I reconstruct my address book, unless my old phone turns up, of course.
While waiting for the oven to turn up and not be fitted I ploughed on with The Three Kings, so I now have a pretty decent idea of how they will end their journey, also how Balthazar will present his gift. It is fascinating to delve into these carols and see how much they have changed from their composition to the present day. Silent Night, for example, has a different melody and structure, and I will need to make some textual choices with the Kings. The more material goes onto the page, the easier it becomes to fill in the gaps, so I might even have a basic version done by Christmas.
Sweet Was The Song had its last outing of the year in the evening, and I took the opportunity to get the piano part wrong, so genuinely transported into reverie was I by the quality of the singing. I like to think that people thought it was a rewrite, but it was just a lapse in concentration. This was the umpteenth performance of my music at Mary Abbots this year and, far from being bored to the back teeth, congregation and singers appeared to be upbeat about the piece, genuinely enthusiastic. I also head whispers of some remarks made further afield about the work, remarks genuinely positive and honest in nature which might possibly bear fruit at some distant point down the line. Of course, I took the opportunity to bore people rigid about composing over mince pies and mulled wine afterwards.
As I played for the carol service I felt very much that I have avoided most of the Christmas grind this year, and that it is hugely gratifying, as I have mentioned many times before, to have one’s music properly performed, and this need not necessarily be by a professional choir. What counts is commitment to detail and dedication to the performance, and I have had it in abundance of quality and quantity of late. To mention specific performers would inevitably mean leaving others out, but I really cannot think of a duff performance of my music all year, for which I am genuinely grateful.
As of today, though, I am off the clock, my only remaining engagement of the year some way away. This year I shall do what normal people do at Christmas and relax. As chorister, organ scholar and organist I have spent most Decembers working when saner people are elsewhere, but not this time. I even managed to get in a few more rounds of Dominion yesterday afternoon.
Next up is Christmas Eve, the broadcast blitz of O’Neill primed to sock unsuspecting punters in the ears. Classic FM at 6 (Sweet Was The Song, Silent Night and yours truly playing the organ until it broke…) and then BBC1 at 11.45 (Missa Sancti Nicolai). My word, the latter is even up on the St. George’s Wikipedia page so it must really be happening! Naturally Midnight Mass will be followed by – what else? – the National Lottery update. As with Sweet, the score for the Mass is available from my website for free download, so feel free to sing along if you wish and pass it on if you like it.
When I switched on my new mobile phone I received several kind messages about the BBC Singers broadcast the other day. There are still a few days left before this disappears from iPlayer, so please do have a listen if you have not found the time or inclination to do so just yet. For me, though, ’tis the season to be creative and the next few days will see me busy over some manuscript, I hope. I have to perform some familial duties here and there, but I want to get back to the job of being a composer as soon as possible, having drifted gently away from routine this month. This time last year I was writing Music for the Occam Singers and I Hear, And Am Elated for the Malcolm Sargent Festival Choir. So much has happened since then that it is hard to believe that it was only a year ago. It will be interesting to read this in a year’s time and see whether this is as good as it gets or merely a staging post on a longer journey.