arranging, Bill Ives, choral work, Handel, HMV Apollo, JEBO, techniques
I took it easy on the voice last night, despite having to explain many rewrites of Handel’s erratic scoring to the choir with which I was working, so all I now have left of my brief illness is a slightly sore throat. Other than that I feel that I am back to operating at a fairly decent standard, so I’ll be catching up on some loose odds and ends today, having spent much of yesterday under a pile of admin.
Primarily I want to push forward with my technical exercises and do some writing, but also I need to do some organ practice, as I have a few days of playing coming up. Although the skills are still there, I do much less organ playing than I used to do when I was at the cathedral, and, as a result, I put in far fewer hours and am less driven to learn new repertoire, but it’s still something that I enjoy, I just do it slightly less at antisocial hours like Sunday mornings. I’ll be trotting out the Fantasia and Fugue in g again tomorrow, and also on Tuesday, alongside a few other works, meaning that I should attempt to get the groundwork done today, if at all possible.
Without naming names, I worked on a new piece yesterday which, from what I can tell, contains some very difficult writing for the singers, writing which could be simplified substantially by approaching some of the issues from a more fluid perspective. One of my favourite tricks in orchestration, taught to me by Bill Ives, is to interlock pairs of instruments, something that works particularly well with clarinets and horns. Unfortunately, because of the way orchestral scores are laid out the instruments tend to hunt in pairs, so that a chord, from top down, might be scored for 1st Clarinet, 2nd Clarinet, 1st Horn, 2nd Horn, when, in fact, a more blended and subtle sound can be achieved by scoring that same chord 1st Clarinet, 1st Horn, 2nd Clarinet, 2nd Horn.
The same happens very often in choral music, so that, in a work with split voices, the top two notes will go to the two soprano parts, the next two to the altos and so on. What this means in practice, though, is that people standing next to each other in the same section are often singing notes which clash, making them very difficult to pitch and hear. The kind of blended scoring I have mentioned above, which in this case would be 1st Soprano, 1st Alto, 2nd Soprano, 2nd Alto, often makes things much easier and produces a more interesting timbre to boot. As long as choral writers continue to sit down at their pianos, however, and think in terms simply of transcribing the chords under their fingers note for note, this problem will remain, whereas, of course, singers thrive on lines.
Anyway, were said piece brought to me by a composition student, that is the main thing I would have to say about it. Only the main thing, though, for there is more that I find iffy about it. Still, it sounds nice, and, in this day and age, that is often all that matters, never mind the quality and all that.
I’m beginning to look forward to the Hammersmith Apollo gig with JEBO as well. We supported the same band at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham a few years back, and, as the lights went down and the cheers went up, I distinctly remember thinking “I could get used to this”. Properly organised gigs with appreciative crowds are something one comes to enjoy and expect in the Classical world, but, oh my, is the Rock world ever different! Still, to tread some of the same boards as The Beatles, Queen and Johnny Cash will tick another one off my “Life’s Ambitions” list, and will hopefully feel better than meeting some of my once-upon-a-time rock heroes. Some time ago we supported a band I loved when I was at University, and whose music I still enjoy, but it was a big disappointment. They even ate all our sandwiches…