As I woke up on Wednesday morning a strange feeling washed over me. It took some time to recognise it, even though I have felt it before – it was the feeling of a free day ahead but without any hugely pressing deadlines. I leapt (figuratively) from my bed, fired up the computer and got down to some work. By the time I downed tools in the late afternoon I had finished tidying one of my orchestral pieces for a competition entry, added some brass parts to Everyone Sang (for another) and managed to get sufficiently ahead on administrative matters to treat myself to a lie-in on Thursday morning. Working on something new was a good feeling, even if neither of those pieces was truly new music.
Having done more than I needed or expected to do on Wednesday the evening was spent running my subsistence farm in Agricola and trying to develop a balanced empire in Tigris & Euphrates, although I must admit that, yet again, my opponent did a better job on both counts, a depressingly regular occurrence. I put up much more of a fight this time around, though, and was pleased to see that both defeats were by narrow margins. Given that these two are probably the games I admire most in my collection, I enjoyed the experience very much indeed.
Thursday was another one of those days spent running around the capital, out of the house mid morning and back late at night. I took a rehearsal for the Malcolm Sargent Festival Choir in the evening, working towards our performance of Messiah at the beginning of December. There has been a push to perform large chunks of this from memory, and I took the opportunity to run one of of those chunks at the rehearsal, and it went extremely well. One or two in the choir have felt that the task was too much, and that may have been the case for some, but I am always of the opinion that one needs to set targets one does not think one can achieve, otherwise we never truly find out what we can do.
The bonus of memorising the material is that the choir is so much more alert in terms of its focus and its sound, and I think that it is fair to say that they are performing at a very high level at the moment. We still have two rehearsals to go before the day of the concert itself, so this learning experience (in many senses of the word) has been very positive, the end justifying the means, I believe.
On Friday morning I played for a Remembrance Service in town and then returned home to do some work tidying my arrangement of We Three Kings. The Parliament Choir begin rehearsing this in a couple of weeks, so it was time to tidy up the dynamics and phrasing, and at some point I will have to write out some brass parts as well.
The work done, we dived into another new board game, this time K2, in which you try to get your climbers up the mountain, fighting weather, lack of oxygen and goodness knows what else. I had feared that this might just be another abstract game with the theme tacked on for want of something to offer the punters, but instead it is a highly tense face-off, and heavy with the feeling of pushing your luck as you try to make it to the summit. A last minute fatality for my one of my opponent’s climbers (unrealistically brought back to life via the use of a special card) sealed me the win, but I would have nudged the tie-break in any case, thanks in no small part to my tent half way up the mountain. It helps that the game designer is himself a climber, but hats off to him for coming up with something genuinely original and thematic.
Yesterday I relaxed a little, but only a little, for today is another busy day of playing. While next week does not look particularly hefty on the work front, I will still need to get more lecture notes finished and competition entries sent off, so there will be little time to throttle back in the coming days.
Lastly a word about Elliott Carter, the American composer who has died at the age of 103, still writing to the end. One of his obituaries mentions that his true personal style emerged in about 1969 or so, and that he felt that all his works to mid-40s were developmental rather than genuine. In other words, he felt that everything he wrote until his mid-30s was derivative, and his true voice did not mature until he was 60. There’s hope for us all, especially if we intend to live to 103.