Claire Seaton, Everyone Sang, Missa Seria, Peace My Heart, Saint Cecilia, Siegfried Sassoon, St Bride's Fleet Street, St George's Southwark
Listening to the first performance of one’s own piece can be a nerve-wracking experience, and I do not recommend it to the weak of heart. It has nothing to do with the calibre of the performers, but comes about because of the sound of the work, the reaction I fear it might evoke in the listener. What I should do, of course, is to publish and be damned, but I’m damned if I can find the courage to do that.
When the piece is designed for a very specific occasion the stakes are even higher, and this morning’s première of Everyone Sang sat right in that category, a work setting an extremely well known (and often set) poem to celebrate Claire Seaton’s twenty five years at St. Bride’s.
This is the second piece I have had performed at Bride’s this year, the first being Peace, My Heart back in March, although it seems much further back than that. Where Everyone Sang took things to the next level, though, is that it was written with a very specific idea of the performers involved, aiming high both in the standard of the vocal lines and in the organ part, given that I had heard them perform earlier in the year.
In the end the piece was a great success, and it seems that most people genuinely enjoyed it. Most importantly of all, though, is the fact that Claire appeared genuinely moved by the setting. It is already being lined up for further outings, and the plan is to send it out to people as soon as possible in an attempt to get it into the repertoire, for, although the text is not sacred, it seems ideally suited to St. Cecilia, and her day is not too far away.
I have to say that I was genuinely moved by this performance. The first entry, where everyone suddenly bursts out singing, exceeded my wildest ideas, and was like a sudden suckerpunch, a crescendo of joy which left me aware of how deficient my notes are on their own without the benefit of intelligent and able performers. Other moments too were just as, no, make that better than I had imagined them ever being, the rolling river of the final pages (“the singing will never be done”) absolutely on the mark. The recording should be up on the Bride’s website on a couple of days, but for now you can get hold of a copy of the music here.
Without the generous permission of Sassoon’s estate, however, I would never have had the opportunity to set this text, one which has always been close to the top of my list, so I am hugely grateful to them, and can only hope that my piece does some justice to the words of this great man.
The Missa Seria was also performed this morning, at St. George’s, so it has been a decent day for my music, a kick up the backside to remind me why I do this. Performances lead to more performances, of course, so this is all fuel to the fire. In the meantime, though, I think I might treat myself to a glass of something fizzy this evening. My piece has gone down well, has seemingly achieved what it set out to do, and that is worth celebrating.