I despise the way that some words have shifted from their original meaning. Among those words we may number “literally” (“I literally laughed my head off”), “solutions” (“Music copying solutions”) and “mall” (let’s not get started…). Another word which irks me is “amateur”, because it bring with it connotations of amateurism, or not being good enough. Instead, of course, “amateur” means anybody who loves what they do, and has nothing to do with amateurism.
This was brought home to me rather forcefully in a week in which a choir formed entirely of volunteers gave a stunning first performance of He Makes His Messengers Winds. Admittedly I had sent out the sound files along with the score, but there was still no guarantee that any of the singers would have looked at it. In fact, dare I say, had they been professionals they probably would not have looked at it.
Instead we had a thrilling performance, not perfect but thrilling, and one which transported one particular sceptic of modern music to “rapture” (his word, not mine). Working with this group of singers was a joy, and I was proud of them in the same way I was of the Parliament Choir in their Brahms performance a couple of weeks ago.
In writing Winds I had to hit a very narrow target – this choir came together on the day for only twenty minutes of work on the piece, but they certainly put in the preparatory work, and I am amazed that more composers do not take the opportunity to harness this. Finish the piece, send out the score and attach the sound file. From the moment they began to sing tonight I knew that I was in good hands.
So here’s to those who love what they do. I sit here with a glass of red, still basking in the afterglow of one of the happiest evenings of my compositional career, and it’s enough to toast amateurs the world over. I count myself in that number, for on nights like tonight I truly love what I do.
Kathleen Evans said:
I’m deeply touched by Nick’s words. I was a member of the choir on Monday and it was a joy and a privilege to perform this beautiful and haunting piece. Thank you, Nick, for making the service extra-special, and thank you John Chambers for commissioning the piece.