Andrew Gant, Antonio Salieri, Behold O God Our Defender, David Gibson, David Terry, George Handel, Guildford, Herbert Howells, In Tenebris, Jan Dismas Zelenka, Johannes Ockeghem, Judith Bingham, Lohengrin, Matthew Martin, Music, Occam Singers, Richard Wagner, Tomas Luis De Vittoria, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
I am getting things done this morning, listening to Lohengrin in preparation for a class on Monday, adding some new ideas to my latest piece, and putting my head into the right place for the next few days of work. There is nothing too stressful to be done, but, by recent standards, I shall be out a fair bit, and that means that I will be spending less time on my own work. As I have mentioned before, I have come to look forward to my stints of hard graft, but normal service should be resumed some time later in the week.
Today will also mark my final concert as Associate Music Director of the Occam Singers. I have been with this choir for over fifteen years, a long time for any relationship, and they were the first to offer me what I would term a proper musical post in London. Arriving here at the tail end of 1995 I flailed around for a bit, working in a record shop and as an accompanist while I attempted to build up my career, and I remember going down to Guildford all those summers ago to take a rehearsal and, as it later turned out, a concert. I was offered the Associate post soon thereafter, and the rest, as they say, is history. At least, it will be come ten o’clock this evening.
The Occams have been good to me. Over and above the music I have made many friends via the group, something hugely important, and remain in contact with many ex-Occams. I have had the opportunity to perform some of my favourite music with them, to an absurdly high standard, from Ockeghem to Bingham and beyond, and they have also performed many of my pieces. They commissioned the three In Tenebris settings over a period of five or so years and, most recently, Music, for their thirtieth anniversary, and several other pieces have come about as a result of contacts made through members of the choir.
What I have always said about the Occams is that they are an amateur (see earlier entries for what I mean by this) choir performing to a professional standard, and I shall be sad not to be able to indulge my own musical fancies with them – I had Vittoria, Zelenka and other goodies up my sleeve for the future – but the time has come to move on. I conducted their Christmas concert, including music by some prodigiously talented modern writers such as Matthew Martin, David Terry and Andrew Gant, and also their summer concert last year. Both had great turnouts and the choir was on superb form. With no conducting engagements with them until 2014, the time was right.
Also, I have always believed that it is better for people to wonder why you went, rather than why you stayed. There is enough momentum in my writing for me to need that extra leeway that time previously given to the Occams will allow me, and I need to be ready to write what might be some large pieces in 2014 and 2015. Even if that does not happen, it is all extra time I can devote to promoting my material. I am sure, also, that they will replace me with somebody dynamic and talented, and that can only be good for the choir. I always remember that I am merely passing through – the graveyards, as they say, are full of indispensible men.
So tonight, under the baton of their Music Director David Gibson, we will perform Handel, Mozart and Salieri. Best of all for me, though, we shall be performing the wonderful Behold, O God our Defender by Herbert Howells, one of my compositional kindred spirits. While I have no regrets and no doubts about my decision, music is a powerful emotive force, something of which I am reminded every now and again, and I may allow myself to be transported a little tonight. Music is also transformative and restorative, the making of it, whether writing or performing, a true privilege. Without the Occams I shall be conducting and playing slightly less, but writing more, and that is a change with which I am happy.