I am clearly well into middle age, for I have already missed six calls today as I am unable to operate my shiny mobile phone, acquired last December after I had left my last one on a tube train. On vibrate I simply can’t feel the thing unless it is strapped to the soles of my feet, whereas, as I found out this morning, if I turn the ringer on I can’t hear it if it is in my pocket and I am amidst the hubbub of the Colliers Wood traffic. I had my hand on the phone just in case, but the volume control turns the vibrate function off, as I now know. There is probably a screen somewhere which sorts all this out, but this phone is apparently so intuitive that it did not even come with an instruction manual, so I have opted to take the path of least resistance and let everything go through to voicemail instead and let the cold callers speak to my answer machine.
I enjoyed my day off yesterday, although I did not quite get round to rewriting American electoral history. Instead I caught up with some DVD fodder, and made further progress into a case of red wine, two bottles down, ten to go. I feel revived today, as if my pencils are lined up ready to do some arranging later, but this morning I have been rehearsing the Poulenc Organ Concerto with Southbank Sinfonia in preparation for our concert in Cardiff later this month. Poulenc himself described this work as somewhere between the fairground and the cloister, and he was pretty much on the money, but it is a far deeper and more eloquent work than he would have us believe. As always with Poulenc, what on the surface may seem lightweight fun can hide music of supreme beauty, and I maintain that Francis wrote some of the twentieth century’s most luminous pages. As examples, how about the song C, heartbreaking in its lament for a war-ravaged France, those church motets after his religious reawakening, and, lest we forget, several moments in his great opera Les Dialogues des Carmelites, a piece I reckon to be not far off Lady Macbeth and Peter Grimes in terms of stature, and that’s a very high stature indeed? This opera, by the way, also contains one of the most arresting and disturbing final scenes in all music, once seen never forgotten.
Judging by some kind comments from one or two of the players in SBS, they have also been delving into my Of All Persons And Estates for the same concert and one in Cadogan Hall earlier in the week. It is hardly at the same level as full-throttle Poulenc, but it is handy that the players are favourably disposed towards it.
At the far end of the day will be the second rehearsal of the current run with the Malcolm Sargent Festival Choir, containing, most likely, a further session on With Thy Might. This is not for purely egotistical reasons, but because, as a new work, it’s important for the choir to understand it as soon as possible in order for them to enter into the spirit of the notes. It will be interesting to see how the choir reacts now that they have already had a bite at it. I had the impression last week that the initial reaction gave way at the end to one of general acceptance, although I realise that it will take a while before it settles properly.
This afternoon I plan to get on with some arranging and try to clear the decks of emails which have accumulated over the course of the past few days. The trickle of incoming work has continued, which is heartening, but it all requires admin and just a little bit of diary juggling in order to fit it all in. Still, March hit its financial target and April is already showing signs of doing the same, so the momentum of work has picked up after a slow start to the year, something I must remember in about 9 months time.
As far as the composing goes, the next projects, as previously mentioned, are arranging rather than writing, some Parry and other bits and pieces as well. I am feeling the need to dive into an original project, and still have that viola piece lying on my writing table (along with my cat, usually), but its pulse is only just there (the viola piece, that is, not the cat, who is in positively rude health). I do hope that this work is not going to end up as just another pile of sketches to be abandoned and then rediscovered some point in the distant future. As there is no original commissioned work on the books at the moment it is an ideal opportunity to get ahead with this, and, although no performance has been even remotely confirmed for it, there are still some avenues to explore in terms of bringing it to life once complete.
The rest of this week looks very pleasant from here, a mixture of work and relaxation prior to the Easter weekend. Thankfully my week is less busy than it would have been in the days when I was an organist with my own Cathedral, but I cannot say that I miss it very much. There are times and seasons for things, and I did ten years of that, but have moved on and am quite happy with my place in things at the moment. At the least, I have more time to devote to understanding my mobile phone, although I fear that it may be an ongoing project.