It is a great time of year to be a musician. As we head into Holy Week there is all sorts of wonderful music floating about, the prime examples being the two Bach Passion settings. I was rehearsing the recitatives from the St. John setting last night for a performance this weekend, and played for another rehearsal for the work last Friday, and I still come away thrilled and awed by the extraordinarily vivid and phenomenally subtle and detailed writing. I would go mad if I had to choose between this, the St. Matthew setting and the Mass in B minor, so it is a good job I do not have to. From the moment the turbulent introduction starts in the St. John Passion, one of the greatest musical depictions of “trouble ahead”, I know I am in for a great couple of hours of exquisitely crafted jewel after jewel after jewel. By the time we get to Zerfliesse and Ruht wohl words fall away, useless in the face of such profound expression. Bring it on.
Of course, Bach is very much a composer whose shoes I am not fit to clean, but I am in good company on that front. Despite my lack of personal talent, however, people still see fit to perform my music, and who am I to stop them? This Friday the Malcolm Sargent Festival Choir will begin rehearsing With Thy Might, my new work for them, the second written specifically for this choir. It will be interesting to see how it fares next to I Hear, And Am Elated, a piece I think is rather good. The new one is substantially different, unaccompanied for a start, and could prove challenging in places, but so did Elated and it won over them in the end.
Today I’ll also be taking the Parliament Choir rehearsal while Simon, the choir’s Music Director, is away abroad performing with soon-to-be-retired Dame Edna. We will be rehearsing Mendelssohn, of course, and also my two pieces for the concerts next month. There will also be some Radio 3 people around for interviews, and I had a preliminary chat with one of them yesterday morning. We’ll be going out on The Choir, apparently, although I probably will not know which episode until somebody tells me that they heard it, such is the way of broadcasting.
Before then it is going to be a day of trying to get ahead on my arranging, of using two or three quieter days before the onslaught of this weekend. I think that I shall do composing and arranging side by side, for I do not feel comfortable with the idea of putting original writing away until my work schedule is clear again. Also, I miss the whole act of creating something out of nothing, frustrating though it can be at times, and if I keep at it I might one day write something that will stand the test of time, even if it will never come close to what the great JSB achieved on a depressingly daily basis.