Alien, Alien Vault, Andrew Millington, Dam Busters, David Briggs, H R Giger, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, Igor Stravinsky, Jehan Alain, John Hurt, Leonard Bernstein, Litanies, Messe de Notre Dame, Military Medley, Nostromo, Occam Singers, Prometheus, Ridley Scott, Russell du Plessis, Sigourney Weaver, Southbank Sinfonia, Space Jockey, St John Passion, St Mary Abbots, Stomach Burster, Sulaco, Through the Fair
It was a good weekend, although the new week started in depressingly familiar fashion with utter chaos on the District line, something I remember well from my once regular Monday morning starts. Still, Saturday and Sunday involved some eminently enjoyable music making amongst friends, both old and new, and finished with an smile-inducing first rehearsal with the Occam Singers, working, amongst other pieces, on my Military Medley and Through The Fair, both of which sound gorgeous already, much more to do with the Occam sound than my ability to put notes on paper.
The St. John Passion on Saturday evening was huge fun, helped by the fact that the cellist and bassist were both friends from my work with Southbank Sinfonia. This meant that the rhythm section, as I like to call it, was not only very capable, but also extremely laid back. In a work such as this all those recitatives can be very difficult indeed if there is a loose cannon in the mix, but all concerned, including the Evangelist, were on the same page from start to finish, both figuratively and literally.
As I headed out to grab some sunshine in the rehearsal break I was approached by a familiar face from the past, Andrew Millington, whom I have known since I was eight. He was then Assistant Organist at Gloucester Cathedral, and our paths have crossed since at Guildford and Exeter Cathedrals. Coincidence brought us to the same place at the same time on Saturday, and it was a great pleasure to catch up, swap notes and find somebody else on a sabbatical.
The concert was also my last but one opportunity to work with Russell du Plessis before he moves away from London, somebody with whom I really enjoy working, an open and honest musician, with a real talent for working with young musicians, especially.
On Sunday morning I was at Mary Abbots, trying to get my fingers around the Messe de Notre Dame by the hyper-talented David Briggs. Working on this away from the choir during my practice sessions was a more detached experience than usual, but once the voices are there his intentions are revealed, and I was approached after the service by a wide-eyed and breathless visitor to the church who had clearly never heard anything like it. My performance of Litanies by Jehan Alain, who died too young to fulfil his promise, also garnered a similar reaction, and, for my efforts in learning the Briggs I was rewarded with a bottle of red and a bottle of white, which I will be investigating later in the week.
I managed to trot out my arrangements with the Occam Singers on Sunday evening, both of them slightly revised for our summer concert. I was a little hesitant about both of these, but they are better than I had remembered, even the Military Medley, the older of the two. There is nothing particularly sophisticated about either of these pieces, apart from having combined a couple of tunes here and there, so they benefit from a slightly broad brush approach at times, although subtle when needed, of course, but I think that they will work just fine.
Yesterday I took my final music class for the academic year out at Ickenham, dealing with Stravinsky and Bernstein, and then travelled to sweltering Putney for a Jubilee concert directed by Russell du P again, involving the young musicians from his school, and some of their parents too. It was huge but hot fun, and the Dam Busters March summed up for me what working with Russell is all about – music making in a vibrant and convivial atmosphere. I wish him well in Winchester and know that they will benefit from his presence there.
The week ahead is quieter in terms of playing work, although busy in terms of writing. Ideally I would like to have the first sketch for my latest choral piece finished by the end of the week, and be quite deep into sorting out the text and structure for another work, especially as there is a new batch of arrangements to be done whose deadline has shifted forwards by two weeks. I have suddenly switched back into productive mode, however, so am confident about getting through these in decent time.
More importantly this week I shall be preparing myself to go and see the film I have awaited breathlessly for too long, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, the latest in the Alien canon, although owners of the box set of the original four films should be aware that it’s not a quadrilogy, it’s a tetralogy. That first film, with Dean Stanton, Holm, Hurt and Weaver is a genuine classic, and I received the gorgeous Alien Vault book as a Christmas present. The art is by Giger, the layers of acting are superb and the direction is the stuff of which perfection is made. Great score, too.
This and the second film made such strong impressions on me as a youngish person that I still regularly have nightmares about being on the Nostromo, and, as a lucky charm, have a cuddly stomach burster who lives next to my bed. I am even wearing my Sulaco T-shirt as I write this (obscure reference…). Now, I am aware that Prometheus could be a dreadful disappointment, but with Ridley Scott on board and, at last, some kind of explanation about the space jockey, one of the enduring enigmas of the original film, it could be something epic for fans of intelligent sci-fi. I have intentionally avoided watching any trailers or reading any articles about it, although I gather that the last seven minutes bring the story arc nicely together. In the end I know that the alien itself is just a very tall and very lanky man in a rubber suit, but by this weekend I am hoping to have fuel for a whole new set of nightmares.