Andrew Griffiths, Anthony Holden, Beauty And A Beat, Davide Penitente, Ed Reardon, Franz Schubert, Hampstead, I Hear And Am Elated, Johann Sebastian Bach, Joseph Haydn, Kingston Choral Society, Lorenzo Da Ponte, Parliament Choir, Puycelsi, Robin Blaze, Scott Of The Antarctic, Sibelius, St John Passion, St John's Smith Square, The Clocks Of Cassiodorus, This Joyful Eastertide, Why Should We Not Sing, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The advent of spring with all that apparently entails in the United Kingdom (snow, icy winds, lashing rain, freezing temperatures) coincided with a busy weekend, both days of which saw me out of the house very early and back very late. Despite feeling like an extra from Scott Of The Antarctic for much of the time, I was nevertheless consoled by taking part in some wonderful music making, and getting to work on a long-awaited commission, which dropped into my inbox on Friday afternoon.
We had initially discussed this many months ago, but it was not confirmed until this week, and the good news for me is that it will be another instrumental work, taking me away for the third time this year from choral writing. I have no particular aversion to writing for choirs, but I would like to do more instrumental work to commission, so, after Why Should We Not Sing? and another part-written piece, currently on hold, this is a further step in the right direction. I intend to meet with the commissioners next month to discuss some further details, but have already begun jotting down some ideas, and will continue to do so over the next few days.
This means that I now have three commissions on the go (one is the “on hold” piece), and there is also interest for further down the year, so I am quite pleased with the way that things are going. Add the viola piece to the list and things seem very rosy indeed.
Balanced against that is the move into one of the busy periods of my year, hence my out-and-aboutness over the weekend. After Easter everything calms down once more, and, while this is hardly the work-related storm of the days of yore, especially the chaotic year when Easter was very early, it is still a little flurry of activity.
On Saturday I played for Kingston Choral Society’s performance of Mozart’s superb but incomplete Mass in C minor. I have my own theory about why this work was never completed, but it went on to be reused in Davide Penitente, text apparently by Lorenzo Da Ponte, whose biography by Anthony Holden, given to me after my Puycelsi concert last year, I have just finished reading. You would have to say that Da Ponte was his own worst enemy, and that brief interaction with Mozart must have been fascinating, especially as neither of them was really in doubt about his own qualities. It is interesting also to note that Da Ponte never mentions Haydn in his memoirs, a curious but, I think, a telling fact.
Anyway, I wrote a piece for KCS back in the twentieth century, The Clocks Of Cassiodorus, and have many fond memories of the experience, not least because the first instalment of the commission fee allowed me to buy my copy of Sibelius, which I have never stopped using since. I am hesitant to look at the score of Clocks, as I am sure I would find many areas where it is deficient or at least very far from my current language, but it went down well at the time, represented my first significant work with orchestra, and many members of KCS came up to me to reminisce about it on Saturday, including its then conductor. We had some superb soloists on Saturday evening, one in particular who was outstanding and, I am sure, destined for great things, and their current conductor, Andrew Griffiths, is a man who definitely knows what he is doing, very easy to work with as well.
On Sunday I played for the annual performance of Bach’s St. John Passion at St. Mary Abbots, always a highlight of my musical year. There is nothing to say about this piece which has not already been said, and it develops as an experience year on year. In the morning, meanwhile, I played for a Schubert Mass up in Hampstead, so I had a pretty good time of it over the weekend.
I was also tickled to see my good friend Robin Blaze on the BBC website, the second college acquaintance I have found there in recent days. His rendition of somebody called Justin Bieber’s song Beauty and a Beat in Baroque stylee is apparently becoming something of an internet hit, what Ed Reardon’s twelve year olds would call “going viral”, and I must admit that I had a giggle watching Robin trying to keep a straight face through the whole thing. At the very least I hope that this clip reminds people that Robin is one of the finest countertenors in the world, something which was already apparent when he was my next door neighbour and classmate in university days.
Robin and I last bumped into each other in 2011, at a concert I was taking part in in Kingston, appropriately enough. We spent a wonderful afternoon together catching up on news, plans, gossip and life in general, a genuine pleasure. What is best about Robin is that he remains what he has always been, and that is, quite apart from his wonderful voice and talent, a thoroughly open, generous and fun person. Most gratifyingly of all, the BBC clip demonstrates all those qualities in abundance, and if it leads more people to his wonderful work, especially all those beautiful recordings of Bach, then that cannot be a bad thing.
Monday and Tuesday were fairly quiet in terms of writing as I took the opportunity to catch up with various bits of admin. This Joyful Eastertide picked up another performance over the Easter weekend and then another on the 15th, and the Malcolm Sargent Festival Choir performed I Hear, And Am Elated at Smith Square yesterday evening. It is the second appearance for this piece at Smith Square, and it is becoming a regular in their repertoire – I must say that they performed it really well, and audience members seem to have enjoyed it. I have also been alerted to the need for some arranging for the next Parliament Choir concert in May, so it would appear that the quiet period of the year is over and that I shall have to keep my composing pencils sharpened for the next few months, all of which is good news.